Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Making sense of the women bishops legislation - please help!

In the wake of the February session of General Synod, behind the scenes attempts are being made to find a form of words that will satisfy opponents of the legislation to introduce women bishops. Without this, it is perfectly possible that, despite everything, the legislation will face defeat in July.
Personally, however, I am still trying to ‘get my head around’ what the legislation currently proposes.
Please correct me if I’m wrong, but as I understand it, should the legislation go through as it currently stands the result (in a nutshell) will be as follows:
1. Every male bishop will be required to put together a scheme which provides for the delegation to another male bishop of certain duties regarding episcopal ministry. (Section 2.1.a,b)
2. A PCC will be able to request that episcopal ministry and pastoral care should be provided by a male bishop. (Section 3.1)
Now forgive me (as I say) if I’m missing something, but what is the point of a PCC requesting ministry from a male bishop if the diocesan bishop is a man, and what is the point of a male bishop setting up a scheme for the provision of episcopal ministry by another, different, man?
And here’s another question. The legislation allows a bishop, if he is a man, to state that he will not ordain women “on grounds of theological conviction (whether of himself or of other persons in his diocese)”. However, it does not allow a woman bishop to do that (NB the issue is obviously “on grounds of theological conviction ... of other persons”). Why is a woman bishop not allowed to do what a man bishop can?
Finally (for the moment), the legislation says that if the diocesan bishop states that he will not ordain women (for whatever reason) the scheme he puts in place must provide for the ordination of female candidates for the office of priest and for their support and pastoral care.
Would that provision have to be from someone who agrees with the ordination of women? If not, is it likely to be effective? And if it ought to be from someone who agrees with women’s ordination, ought not the provision of ministry to petitioning parishes be from someone who shares their theological conviction? Yet this is not specified in the legislation.
As I say, I may have misunderstood, but from a legislative point of view it all seems very confused as to the principles by which we are supposed to be working.
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  1. John,
    For your first question: a male bishop providing an alternative male bishop by the proposed legislation is exactly what happens at the moment under the provisions of the 1993 Act of Synod. It means that Anglo-Catholic priests who see themselves as forming the priestly college of a bishop are not part of the college of a male bishop who admits into his college, by his ordaining them, women whose priestly orders they could not accept. This is something we would see as an essential part of any new framework. Importnatly, it does give the lie to those who are saying women bishops by this legislation would be second class. They wouldn't because the same provisions apply to male as to female bishops.
    Paul Noble

  2. Hi Paul. I would agree with you entirely, and wouldn't raise the question as I did, if the legislation specified that the male bishop had to be of the same integrity as the people to whom he ministers - but it doesn't, and therein lies the rub.

    If it did, then there would have to be such bishops either existing in the diocese or in neighbouring dioceses. Moreover, the supply of such bishops would have to be assured. I gather this may be one reason for the omission - but omission it is.

    1. Sorry then, I didn't take on board the main thrust of your point. And although there is some nod to the idea of same integrity in the code of practice, as we're all painfully aware, the code is only that, a code which can then be ammended or withdrawn at some future date, while the legislation remains in place. Without a proviso that the substitute male bishop does not himself ordain women, the substitution of one male for another is farcical.
      I would imagine the omission of provision for a future supply of orthodox bishops is quite deliberate and one reason why so many of us see this as terminal care and with no desire to see us flourish and grow. Paul N.

  3. As has been said many times "A Code of Practice will not do". It won't work because a number of the bishops will set out to kill it as soon as they can and, as I understand things, each and every bishop can invent his own Code of Practice whether or not it is acceptable to those of us who cannot accept either women priests or bishops

  4. Hi John,

    The archbishops deal with some of these points in their foreward to the draft code of conduct. This includes three principles on which the House of Bishops are said to be agreed including the allocation of bishops to requesting parishes who address the theological convictions of the requesting parish and a continuing supply of bishops who can do this. The Archbishop of Canterbury also dealt with the inadequacy of simply stipulating that a male bishop be provided to requesting parishes in his speech to Synod before the debate on the Manchester motion. I've also read other bishops pick up this point too. Given his voting on the Manchester and Southwark motions it looks as if the Archbishop feels that the amended Southwark motion gives sufficient room to address this point at least. Codifying this and thereby giving substance to the assertion in the foreward that provision will not be time limited seems to me a very basic and necessary amendment if any serious attempt to keep traditionalists on board is to be made.

    Harder to see how the jurisdiction/delegation point can be addressed whilst keeping a sufficient Synodical majority on board.

    best wishes,

    Matt (Kettering)

  5. Thanks Matt. It is reassuring that I'm not the only one thinking there's a great big hole where there ought to be a positive statement. Let's hope that this is addressed.

  6. Have you seen that the new Dean of St Paul's wants to do same-sex marriages in St Paul's, just as he blessed gay relationships in Bradford?

    I thought Bradford was an evangelical diocese with an evangelical bishop.

    Things must have changed.

    Mark B., W. Kent

  7. Andrew Godsall9 March 2012 at 09:04

    Quite what your comment has to do with the thread I am not sure Mark B.
    It isn't actually what David says in the Times interview. What he says he has done and what he says he would be happy to do is something that the House of Bishops pastoral statement allows for. Please read the following letter in last week's Church Times for clarity and before you write someone else off.

    Andrew Godsall, Exeter

  8. Andrew, I cut through the faff and flannel and say what words mean. I know exactly what Ison means, and I hope you do too.

    What is VERY disappointing for evangelicals who still want to be part of the C of E is the failure of clerics reared in the evangelical world to hold onto their biblical faith once in the hierarchy. Were they preferred because of their liberalism ('relates well to everyone etc')? Wel, it just shows that Crown appointments have a liberal bias. How else did Holtam get appointed?

    Ison was trained in St John's Nottingham but has clearly become a liberal.

    The same thing has happened to Bishop Baines, who, according to Crockfords, studied under George Carey at Trinity Bristol, but seems to endorse every liberal cause now.

    Mark B., W. Kent

  9. It just proves that these labels - evangelical, liberal etc etc are meaningless doesn't it.

    I do know exactly what David means, yes. I suspect you only know what the Time leads you to believe.

    Andrew Godsall, Exeter

  10. "It just proves that these labels - evangelical, liberal etc etc are meaningless doesn't it."

    No, that's a sloppy throwaway line. It does if people use them as self-identifiers then deny them in practice. The terms are not meaningless otherwise. Stott wasn't a liberal, neither is Packer. From your own words, I conclude that you're a theological liberal, Andrew, because you prioritise contemporary human reason over (certain) historic affirmations on sexual conduct (and maybe other matters) of the Church.

    As you don't actually know me, you shouldn't entertain suspicions about what I "know" from The Times (a paper I almost never read). I learn from multliple sources, including first-hand conversations. Ison wants same-sex marriage (although Bishop Baines tries now to conceal this fact) and if you think he doesn't, you should illuminate us.

    Mark B., W. Kent

  11. Mark: Where do non-human affirmations concerning sexual conduct come from? Presumably not from Martians. And don't say "the Bible" since most Anglicans believe it was written by humans.

  12. please tell me we're not going to have an endless discussion about the inspiration of Scripture!!

    We're Anglicans.

    We recite the Creed: "He (the Holy Spirit) has spoken through the prophets."

    Our clergy take as their instrument for their work the Bible as the Word of God: "And seeing that you cannot by any other means compass the doing of so weighty a work, pertaining to the salvation of man, but with doctrine and exhortation taken out of the holy Scriptures, and with a life agreeable to the same; consider how studious ye ought to be in reading and learning the Scriptures, and in framing the manners both of yourselves, and of them that specially pertain unto you, according to the rule of the same Scriptures: and for this self-same cause, how ye ought to forsake and set aside [as much as you may] all worldly cares and studies.")

    We read the Bible systematically "that the Clergy, and especially such as were Ministers in the congregation, should (by often reading, and meditation in God's word) be stirred up to godliness themselves, and be more able to exhort others by wholesome doctrine, and to confute them that were adversaries to the truth; and further, that the people (by daily hearing of holy Scripture read in the Church) might continually profit more and more in the knowledge of God, and be the more inflamed with the love of his true Religion."

    We don't read in church "uncertain Stories, and Legends" (if you don't know where that comes from (a) you should, (b) Google it).

    We are a church built on Scripture.

    I promise you, if anyone starts going down that line of discussion, I will delete the thread!

  13. "And don't say "the Bible" since most Anglicans believe it was written by humans."

    I think that statement sums up what is essentially wrong with Anglicanism and clearly contrasts the difference between liberals and conservatives. If this is what 'most Anglicans believe' then RIP CofE.

    Chris Bishop

  14. Rev John:
    "We recite the Creed: "He (the Holy Spirit) has spoken through the prophets."

    Are there no 'prophets' today? If not, why has the Holy Spirit stopped speaking?

  15. Of course we believe in the inspiration of scripture as Anglicans. What we don't believe in is the inerrancy.

    Andrew Godsall Exeter

  16. Which bits of the scripture do you think are errant Andrew?

    Chris Bishop

  17. You were warned! This thread is now closed.