Thursday, 24 June 2010

Guardian "Comment is Free" Article on the Archbishops' Proposals re Women Bishops

The Guardian asked me to write a piece for them on the Archbishops' proposals on the introduction of women bishops. I don't think the strap line quite gets it, though: "A conservative evangelical condemns the Archbishops' measures to make room for opponents of women priests." Either that, or I didn't make myself clear, but it was done at very, very short notice.

[...] Analysts may detect the intricacies of Rowan Williams' thought and the niceties of John Sentamu's legal background. Yet whether or not it upsets the supporters of women bishops, the real question is whether it will satisfy the opponents. And here I have to say the answer is probably not.

The solution to the issue of "delegation" certainly does have something to commend it, since this is a genuine anxiety for many. If the duties of the female diocesan are simply delegated to a male substitute, then those to whom he ministers are still under her authority. Jurisdiction given under the amended Measure could, as the Archbishops hope, instead be regarded as being conferred "by the decision of the Church as a whole", independently of the diocesan.

Many will feel, however, that the Archbishops overemphasize the issue of delegation whilst overlooking anxieties about the essential shape of the proposed legislation. For at the moment we would see each diocese developing a local scheme essentially under the control of the diocesan bishop. And whilst that bishop would have a "duty to have regard" to a Code of Practice, opponents simply do not trust this requirement or the posited Code. Indeed, on the basis of past and present experience, nothing less than legally defined and conferred jurisdiction will allay these worries. Read more

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  1. I'm sure the 2 Archbishops mean well, and they've shown considerable courage, but I can see one fatal flaw in their proposal: it doesn't mention the oath of canonical obedience. If a woman bishop retains jurisdiction as ordinary, then surely the oath will still be made to her, even if actual episcopal functions are "delegated". No-one who disagrees on biblical grounds with the ordination of women will be able to take that oath.

    Stephen Walton

  2. I sent this inquiry around yesterday to some of my English Anglican friends; strangely, I have not as yet rec'd a single reply to it:

    I have been thinking about these matters for the last couple of days; and now I have just read this:

    which I find incomprehensible in its enthusiasm, however "qualified." As I read the archbishops' proposals -- and please correct me if I am wrong -- there is nothing in them that would prevent a "flaminica" (my term for a "womanbishop," with intentionally pagan connotations) from appointing as her "coordinate bishop" a man keen on WO and who (purports to) ordain(s) women, and who might therefore provide "episcopal functions" for such "recusants" as would accept them, but who could hardly serve as an advocate for them and their "orthodox integrity" -- in this respect, of course, completely different from the current PEV scheme. Moreover, and in the longer run (but perhaps the fabricators of this proposal have in mind John Maynard Keynes' "in the longer run we will all be dead") there seems to be nothing to prevent the appointment of a male bishop whose diaconal and presbyteral ordinations were at the hands of a flaminica, or who was himself consecrated by a set of bishops including a flaminica.

    I think that in these circumstances "conservatives" (Evangelicals, Anglo-Catholics -- "papalists" and "anti-papalists" alike) and WATCH Liberals (and, generally the sort of enrages who frequent Simon Sarmiento's "Thinking Anglicans") should all seek to defeat the archbishops' proposal -- indeed, they should adopt one VI Lenin's "the worse, the better" as their watchword -- and then seek to prevent it from gaining the requisite two-thirds majority in the House of Laity for the final vote in 2012 or thereabouts.

  3. William, one of the problems with CIF is the word count, which means a lot of things have to go unsaid. I wanted to point out that one of the key problems with the entire draft legislation is that - as you observe - it says nothing about the qualifications of these bishops who will act for petitioning parishes.

    If they are just chosen because they are of the male gender this will not be satisfactory at all. Indeed, it would suggest that the whole thing really is about prejudice, not theology. What we need is bishops who will embody theological convictions, and I don't see that this has been addressed at all.

    My candid opinion is that we are facing a train wreck on all sides.