Monday, 12 July 2010

The 'Curmudgeon' nails it on women bishops

There is an important post on the Anglican Curmudgeon blog which exactly identifies one of the problems over trying to find a way out of the current impasse on women bishops:
It is instructive to delve beneath the bare numbers. At stake is proposed legislation that would enable women to be ordained as bishops for the first time in the Church of England, while the Synod passed in 1992 changes which allowed the ordination of women as priests. It was the latter change which made it possible for the clergy order to defeat the Archbishops' compromise measure, since there are now a significant number of women clergy delegates to Synod as a result of the changes enacted in 1992. The number so elected to Synod easily exceeds the plurality of 5 by which the Archbishops' measure went down to defeat among the clergy.

In short, the women priests in Synod combined with a sufficient number of male priests to ensure, by a bare minimum, that the wisdom of the other orders in the Church of England would not be put into practice. And in that description of the result is all the data that anyone needs to conclude that the admission of women to the priesthood in the Church of England was just the first step in a widening gyre. There will be no turning back: after the approval of the ordination of women to the episcopate, the numbers will so change in the Church of England's House of Bishops, and in the lay delegates as well, as to make inevitable the ordination of LGBT's to the episcopate. And at that point, the Church of England -- in whatever form it then remains -- will be indistinguishable from ECUSA.
Actually, given the composition of the House of Clergy in Synod, it is somewhat surprising that the vote came as close as it did. Nevertheless, it is surely the case that as the number of female clergy has increased, so the possibility of electing clergy who are opposed to the ordination of women has decreased, resulting in a disproportionate absence of their number from the Synod.

In short, there is an inevitable but 'systemic' gerrymandering in the electoral system, just as there has clearly been deliberate 'political' gerrymandering in this respect in the appointment of bishops.

John Richardson
12 July 2010

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  1. Curmudgeon speaks nonsense here. His missing presupposition is that the women who will make up the House of Bishops of the CofE in the future will be in favour of LGBT ordinations. He does not know that. No one knows that. And, as I commented on another post here (and completely ignored by subsequent commenters :) ), it is not the case that every Anglican church with women bishops has automatically moved to a pro-LGBT ordination position.

  2. Peter, what I think Curmudgeon was fundamentally right about is two things: first, that it (inevitably) changed the composition of the church's clergy in an increasingly pro-women's ordination direction. That was only to be predicted. Secondly, given the background to the development, it does bias things in a Liberal direction. You have only to look at the posited candidates for the first women bishops in this country to see that is the case. We are bound to get an influx of women bishops because the pressure will be to aim for a 50-50 balance. In fact, it is likely that within a decade or two, the majority of the world's Anglican women bishops will be in the Church of England. Almost none of them, however, will be remotely conservative.

  3. Hi John,
    I agree that initially there is a bias in a liberal direction (that happened in NZ). But over time that could change: liberals are not always successful in recruiting their own in the next generation ... that generation of women clergy could be conservative, especially if the larger evangelical congregations in university towns and cities remain in the C of E. (Even if they teach against the ordination of women, that does not mean all young women receiving the teaching will agree with it!)

    What I particularly like about your post above about faithfulness is its argument for not panicking in the direction of departure.

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