Sunday, 15 November 2009

Women Bishops: here’s the (new) deal

The news is that the Revision Committee of General Synod, after sparking some hoo-hah, and even a debate in Westminster, earlier by suggesting it might go for some statutory provision for those opposed to women bishops, has now announced there will be no such provision.
This is widely, and rightly, being hailed as a ‘triumph’ by the supporters of women bishops and will no doubt prompt some Anglo-Catholics to take up Rome’s offer.
But what about other Anglican Traditionalists who are not Anglo-Catholics able to go to Rome?
Well, life is about give and take, so here’s what I suggest should be the new deal. Anglican Traditionalists like myself accept the non-statutory transfer of powers from the bishops, provided all the bishops believe and, as they promise to at their consecration, work to preserve in all other respects the Anglican Tradition — the Creeds, the Articles and the other formularies.
I think I could live with that.
Revd John P Richardson
15 November 2009
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  1. What the Lordships give, they can take away.
    The Anglo-Catholic ballast of the Cof E will be gone in 10 years, leaving evangelicals and liberals to slug it out.

    Mark B.

  2. Oh, come on, Mark, you know the evangelicals are slugging it out already. As Alan Sherman might have sung, "All the Opens hate ConEvos" - and there are plenty of other fights to win before we can possibly give any attention to liberals. ;-)

  3. Having some acquaintance with the diplomatic field, it is my opinion that the decision has long-since been made at the highest levels and now they are simply awaiting the date of the photo-opportunity to announce it publicly. The deal is, in short: Like it or Lump it!

  4. Dear John,

    (Firstly, I just wanted to say thanks for your blog in general - I was the student that helped you find coffee at oak hill the other day and i wanted to express thanks to you at the time, as a number of us at college read your stuff.)

    Just about this news though. If there is no provision for 'dissenters', isn't it the case that there's a good chance that it won't pass through synod at all because it won't receive the 2/3 majority in the house of laity? Is it the case that there could in fact be a complete deadlock on the issue - with 'traditionalists' and some sympathetic to them unwilling to vote for women bishops without statutory provision, and the others unwilling to vote for it with statutory provision. If this is a likely scenario (I guess it depends on synod elections) then aren't we all just going to have to settle down into long term trench warfare with no progress on the issue?

    Am I right in thinking that this is a realistic outlook for the future?

    If so, would it not seem better for all the 'orthodox' to simply commit to staying and contending rather than bolting to the door in panic? - if the stats are right, conservative churches are the ones growing so in the long run should be able to gradually increase in influence?

    Would love to know what you think,

    In Christ,

    Nick Weir

  5. If, as I and many others believe, that women cannot be priests, then they also cannot validly consecrate the Holy Eucharist. In the COE at the moment, one can find a valid Eucharist by going to a Mass celebrated by a male priest.

    When/If the innovation of women bishops is formalised, parishioners will have the added burden of trying to be sure that the male priest has been validly ordained by a male bishop; otherwise they have the same problem - looking for valid sacraments. Within a short time, the 'pedigree' of all ordinations will have to be examined for validity to assure the communicant of efficacy of the sacraments.

    It's already a mess in the USA. The Church of England doesn't HAVE to go down the same slippery slope. I pray she won't.

    Connie Sandlin

  6. John
    Do you honestly think that if the powers to be transferred are non statutory any will be transferred at all? Which Bishop worth her salt would do such a thing voluntarily?

  7. John, I think I am coming to see that 'liberal' and 'evangelical' are not entirely separate categories but more like opposite ends of a room, and that 'Open Evangelicals' are those making a slow (or swift) journey to that end. Melvin Tinker's article on 'Liberal Influences on Evangelicalism' is illuminating:
    The controling principle among the 'Fulcrum' bishops and their followers isn't the Word of God traditionally exegeted but rationalism, experientialism or institutionalism.
    Mark B.

  8. Thanks to all recent posters.

    1662 - I'm sure you're on the right lines for now. That's all I can say on that one!

    Nick, despite what I just said about 1662's comment, you may be right. It does still hve to go through Synod, and I know that some people think a 'stalemate' is a real possibility. The desperate need in my view is for traditionalist Anglicans to clarify their own position - to themselves and to others. Here, I think Oak Hill and Wycliffe Hall have a real part to play - so I would be interested to know what the thoughts are amongst the college staff. If we are to 'stay Anglican' we must, in some sense, commit to Anglicanism, which is what I've been trying to argue on this blog.

    Connie, I appreciate your difficulty and your concerns. However, the idea that only a man can celebrate the sacraments or ordain cannot be established as a core Anglican doctrine. This is an understanding some Anglicans conscientiously hold, but it is hard to argue that all Anglicans must hold it. For traditionalist evangelicals, the issue is somewhat different from that of the Anglo-Catholic. Nevertheless, we might have hoped that a clearer, and frankly more charitable, provision might have been offered.

    Nigel, I am sure that to begin with everyone will stick to the code of practice and be nice to one another. I am just as sure that, as has happened with senior appointments despite the provisions of the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993, the undertakings will eventually be reneged on and every advantage will be taken by those in power. Sorry to say it, but that is what we have seen already.

    Finally back to Mark B, I share your pessimism about some bishops. Thanks for the link to Melvin's article. We can usefully think of a defining 'core' of beliefs for Christians and evangelicals. At the same time, though, we ought to acknowledge that the further one moves from that core, the less clearly Christian one becomes.

  9. "Well, life is about give and take, so here’s what I suggest should be the new deal. Anglican Traditionalists like myself accept the non-statutory transfer of powers from the bishops, provided all the bishops believe and, as they promise to at their consecration, work to preserve in all other respects the Anglican Tradition — the Creeds, the Articles and the other formularies."

    John, it gives me no pleasure to say that this appears to be a quite vacant peroration. Your subsequent comments, i.e., " I am just as sure that .... the undertakings will eventually be reneged on and every advantage will be taken by those in power," and "I share your pessimism about some bishops," show that even you, despite what you say, have no real basis for placing any confidence in it.

    Just what are you saying? Are you trying justify doing nothing? I understand there is a case for sitting tight, and trusting God to protect his church, which we must do in any case. But only a brief review of Christian history shows that it has often been necessary for Christians to be both vocal and active in defending the faith.

  10. Topper, you must be congratulated on coming up with the best phrase: "vacant peroration"!

    My original post here was actually a slight expansion of a comment I posted on the blog of Alan Wilson, the Bishop of Buckinghamshire, where he was himself commenting on the news from the Revision Committee. He had earlier posted on this blog here in my article about the Adjournment debate.

    My comment on his blog, and hence the article here, was slightly tongue in cheek: wouldn't it be great if? Bishop Alan, however, seems to think this already applies, responding, "I don't know of any episcopal colleague who doesn't seem to believe and uphold what we are all committed to believe and uphold."

    You can see my further thoughts on that here, and no doubt he will reply in due course.

  11. I have written fairly extensively on the Scandinavian church scene in Touchstone, and some of my articles and interviews have been republished in New Directions. In all honesty, I don't think that the present status questionis is very hopeful at all. Put bluntly, I would say that the Church of England's present situation is that of the Church of Sweden about 40 years ago, and that the Church of England's future (whether the General Synod adopts a "code of practice" or not) is the Church of Sweden's present. It really is "as simple as that."

  12. I feel quite sad about Connie Sandlin's dismissive comments that 'Women cannot be priests' or 'consecrate the Holy Eucharist'. Women are gifted and anointed by the Spirit in the same way that men are, and yet are discouraged by 'male constructs' and a particular limited interpretation of scripture from fulfilling their God-given vocation. The Church of England is in crisis, numbers are falling, yet we are still bickering about whether women can be clergy. If offended parties want to go over to Rome, let them..It might achieve a lot more good in the long run.


  13. Alison,

    Connie Sandlin's comments are not dismissive, they are scriptural. Those in favour of women's ordination know full well that they have no scriptural authority to back up their case. You might ask yourself why numbers are falling. The C of E has tried many different innovations to address the decline in church attendance, and the ordination of women was trumpeted as a possible solution by making the church 'more relevant'. This had absolutely no impact, in fact, a popular view is that an influx of middle class, middle aged women has had the completely opposite effect. The 'male constructs' you refer to is typical feminist psycho babble, and again is an attempt to cloud the real issue - the church of my birth has changed, and I am expected to accept this change unquestioningly when it goes against all I have been taught and sincerely believe. We only have to look at the complete disarray of the ECUSA to see were we are heading. I have no burning desire to become a Roman Catholic, but if it means that I can leave behind this sort of sanctimonious rubbish then it may be the only option left.

  14. If Alison is correct, and giving women leadership positions in our church brings with it health and growth, then surely that fact should be easily obtainable. Women have had those leadership roles in the churches of ECUSA and New Zealand for well over 20 years, what do the statistics say?

  15. Dear Anonymous,
    We do not need to have scriptural authority to back up our case. Women in churches of differing denominations are successfully and rightfully leading churches and ministering effectively and prayerfully. I'm afraid your prejudicial statement 'an influx of middle class, middle aged women..'merely betrays your hang-ups and doesn't do your arguement any favours. In fact I wonder why so many feel so threatened ..(male, middle class etc?!) I'm sorry you feel the church of your 'birth' has changed, but I would suggest that it is you who need to do the changing, in becoming open to different views,and leadings.


  16. Alison,
    I am intrigued about your statement:

    "We do not need to have scriptural authority to back up our case".

    By the same token, outfits like Changing Attitude would claim thir members are rightfully leading churches and ministering effectively and prayerfully- and doing so in differing denominations.

    Would you say that they don't need to have scriptural authority either?

    Chris Bishop

  17. I think it is important that Anglicans considering full union with the See of Peter spiritually prepare themselves by fully exploring the importance of the Eucharist. May I recommend Abbot Vonier's 'Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist' for those interested. It is not by coincidence that the liberal MP, Augustine Barrell recognised that for Catholics "it's the mass that counts".

    Once living eucharistically becomes one's bedrock, other difficulties become insignificant. Unity with Christ Jesus in the Eucharist overcomes all disunity. As a Catholic, the generosity of Pope Benedict in allowing Anglican and Latin tradition to become one in the Eucharist fills me with great joy and reminds me of the writings of St. Augustine:

    "The Eucharist is our daily bread. But let us so receive it as to be thereby refreshed, not in body merely but in mind. For the power which we know to be therein is the power of unity whereby we are brought into union with His body and become his members. Let us be what we receive. For then it will be truly our daily bread."

  18. I say, we do not need to have scriptural authority, because women , like men,are called to the priesthood and given gifts in ministering, leading, speaking. Galatians 3:28. 'We are all one in Christ..'As for Changing Attitude I believe anyone who feels anointed or called should be able to follow that calling irrespective of their sexual leaning..and we should not pass judgment. If we are to lead people to Christ that should be our central aim and desire.

    In christ,

  19. I'm beginning to suspect a troll.

    1. Does not know that there is no scriptural call for women to teach men.
    2. Calls for unity but that unity is a case of 'feelings' only!!
    3. Did not answer my question about statistics to back up her case.

  20. Rosemary,

    1.I will not engage in name-calling. Its not christian.
    2.The bible is a book that has to be interpreted, written largely by men. Jesus saw women as equal human beings despite the cultural laws. Women were appointed Deacons and judges. You evidently follows Pauline teaching, which many feel to be constructed culturally.
    3. Women are practising as Ministers and leaders in our churches, and are valued and gifted by the holy spirit.
    4.I know little about New Zealand church statistics, but find it staggering that you would attribute the decline in numbers, if that's what you're suggesting, to the number of women being ordained.It is naive to suggest this.
    Frankly, I find your views disheartening at odds with a church that should be embracing change, moving forward and including people regardless of gender.

    Yours in christ,

  21. Anonymous, responding to Alison, wrote: "Those in favour of women's ordination know full well that they have no scriptural authority to back up their case."

    This was intended to back up Connie's point that "women cannot be priests, ... they also cannot validly consecrate the Holy Eucharist."

    The problem with this argument is that there is also no scriptural authority for the ordination of men to any kind of priesthood which gives them a special powers to consecrate the Eucharist. If we appeal to scripture, then we have to completely abolish the priesthood in this sense.

    So, Anonymous, let's first see the scriptural argument for men's ordination, then we can discuss if it also applies to women.

  22. Well said, Peter. I think men were classified as presbyters, but at least you show an openness to the issue. I think that most people recognize women as being culturally constrained from positions of power in biblical terms, even Conservative Evangelicals!.

    Yours in christ, Alison

  23. Indeed, Alison. There is of course a biblical argument for elders/presbyters - and the argument that they could only ever be male is very weak. But, despite its etymology, the English word "priest" does not mean the same as the biblical concept of elder - especially not if it is taken, as apparently by Connie and certainly by Roman Catholics, as implying that they have some right to make Christian sacrifices which other Christians do not have.

  24. You're absolutely right on that.Thanks for the insight (must follow your blog!)


  25. Peter Kirk,

    Ever heard of the Montanists? You may find it interesting. Regarding Scriptural authority you are quite wrong.


    If as you state 'Women were appointed Deacons and judges' why then not presbyters and Bishops? Proponent of women's ordination knew that they could not argue convincingly for it, and instead hitched their wagon to the feminist agenda. This soon became an equality issue, and we are now left with a broken church which is about to lose many valued and committed priests. You may deny any knowledge of the church in New Zealand, but you can certainly read about ECUSA on the internet.

  26. Anonymous, yes, I have heard of the Montanists. While I don't want to say that they were right in every way, I would suggest that the church was wrong to reject them so completely, and has remained in error ever since because of this.

    As for the authority of Scripture, perhaps you would like to elaborate your comment, especially if your point is that you can find "scriptural authority for the ordination of men to any kind of priesthood which gives them a special powers to consecrate the Eucharist".

    It would of course help if you didn't hide behind the cloak of anonymity, in breach of the rules for this blog.