Sunday, 24 June 2012

Open Evangelical Responses to the Amendments of the Women Bishops Legislation

The Fulcrum website, representing (I think it is fair to say) open evangelical opinion, has published five responses to the House of Bishop's amendments to the women bishops legislation. They are generally brief, and I believe they make important reading. I've published the links below with a 'key quote' from each:

James Mercer
"Last year, at the Deanery Synod discussion on the measure to enable women to be admitted to the episcopate, the myth of two equal but contradictory integrities was at last exposed as just that, and was conclusively dispatched as a legitimate premise within Anglicanism."

Stephen Kuhrt
"Those in possession of power are usually very intuitive to danger, and the current set of bishops know that there will be far less places for them to hide if women are allowed to join them as equals. Better to allow women in but with areas of vulnerability preserved to keep them beholden to their male colleagues."

Elaine Storkey
"The present clause will mean we must maintain a pool of both Catholic and Conservative Evangelical opponents to women within the church, from which we can select those who will offer alternative episcopal oversight."

Jody Stowell

"... it seems to place in law, that which would have remained as a matter of grace, courtesy and wisdom, strongly held in the Code of Practice. This would ensure that discrimination against women was something that could be enforced by law, rather than understood as a matter of conscience which can be freely offered alternative arrangements in generosity and grace."

Andrew Goddard
"As with objectors to the covenant, both wings sometimes distort the wording and project their worst – and opposing, incompatible - fears onto the proposal: the Measure will either be worthless, offering no serious long-term provision, simply giving “hospice care” for dissenters or it will ensure in perpetuity that women are not treated equally, enshrining discrimination in law. Even more disconcerting, reactions to the amendment seem to confirm that some are not committed to recognising dissenters as loyal Anglicans and taking their theological convictions seriously. Those convictions are seen as beyond the theological pale with no lasting place in an inclusive church or as pseudo-theological cover for injustice and discrimination."

Simon Cawdell
"Whilst (as my own Bishop has pointed out in a pastoral letter to his clergy) the amendment does not mention the theology of ‘taint’ (that is to say that ordinations by any bishop who has ordained women are in particular doubt [and those of the women certainly in especial doubt]) it does very clearly enable the view that parishes and priests holding this view, widely held by petitioning parishes under the Act of Synod 1993 may expect a bishop of this theological persuasion. Thus they must be allowed the ministration of a male bishop who has never ordained women.

This therefore makes permanent in law the situation that has arisen since 1994 when the position of those opposed to the ordination of women is protected, in effect if not explicitly in statute. And this is precisely the position that General Synod has been resisting for the last seven years as the draft legislation has made its snails progress through the stages."

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  1. A couple of things I notice.

    1st, a typical confusion between C of E and Anglicanism. This is quite an English and C of E mistake. Anglicanism is sooo much bigger and is far from "decided" on this (well some have, including the opposite conclusion).

    Also, the stuff about "grace" (in Jodie's quote) and "worst fears" (in Andrew's); the very choice of words (discrimination, opponents) and our experience in synods etc. including the articles and posts on Fulcrum website, I think means those who take the traditional view (still held by many/most Anglicans globally, historically and by very many other church bodies globally) have every right to fear and ask for some safe guards.

    Darren Moore

  2. Personally, I don't understand what all the fuss is with women bishops.

    I am opposed to women bishops. I am also opposed to men bishops. I have yet to encounter a single male bishop who is in any way competent to lead their diocese in its main objective, the re-evangelisation of the particular part of England for which they claim to be responsible. They are mainly interested in the preservation of their authority, their privileged status, and thousands of mostly empty buildings. I doubt if female bishops are likely to be any different.

    Time for you evangelical Anglicans to wake up and smell the coffee - the entire cadre of unelected, incompetent, wasteful, self-serving, pompous and - in some cases - unbelieving bishops need to be booted out. But you won't do it. Because you are Anglicans first, and Christians second.

    Poor England.

  3. Well, as someone moving to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, that clearly can't be true, at least not 100%.

    Although I've got a bit of sympathy with where you're coming from it isn't quite as simple as that. For a start, there is only ONE Church, Christ's. So what goes on in the C of E (for example) actually effects us all. As we know every time we speak to a non-Christian, especially a Muslim.

    So, obviously feel that they should stay for their congregation, some feel that the title deeds are evangelical, why should they leave not the liberals. There are lots of motives that need to be checked. But, what we can say is that Christianity wasn't started yesterday in England and so there is "baggage". But not ALL of it is bad.

    Arguably, the problem Anglicans, who are evangelical, have is that they haven't been very Anglican at all, but used it as a franchise. Now they have problems.

    But, you are right. Evangelicals in the C of E do need to wake up and smell the coffee.

    Darren Moore

  4. Darren,

    Could you explain your reasons for moving to the EPC please? Is it becauese you are no longer able to function in your present setting?

    Chris Bishop

  5. A mixture of things really. You could say something about round holes and square pegs, so there is a question about where someone fits best re: skills/gifting, but also theologically/ecclesiologically. It's a bit of a long story how this particular congregation and I met each other. The whole process of meeting, getting to know each other etc. took about a year.

    The congregation where I still serve, for the next few weeks, and I, get on OK. We've grown, numerically and in maturity. I guess that there is a big minority who are "like me". Many appreciate much about evangelical ministry, but would be Anglican 1st and foremost & wouldn't back me on the woman bishop thing. But there is no strain there.

    I've been on Synods etc. I certainly get frustrated at the whole level things are discussed/decided. Although I may not be as "this is the one way to run a church", as some... but I could wax lyrical about how odd the C of E is in how it's organised, dividing up leadership/decisions, from word from sacrament, rather than the simplicity of a Presbyterian (say) system of Elders and Deacons, where people are more accountable to each other, congregationally and within presbytery for their teaching, behaviour and how we spend people's money.

    I'm pretty thick skinned (I think most people would say), but I did have quite a bit of, "why are you in the C of E with these views?"... to which I thought... good point.

    Now, I don't think everyone has to leave the C of E. But I think the article by the Minister of St Peter's Dundee about the situation in Scotland is well worth Evangelical Anglicans reading.


  6. As a PS
    summarise my garbled response... I'd want to be more positive about where I'm heading, than I'd want to be negative about where I'm leaving.

  7. At least there is a good range of different views at Fulcrum
    Pete Head

  8. The link Darren referred to is here:

    I'm still staggered by remarks like Jody Stowell's. What arrangements are people like her going to freely offer us? And how exactly are they going to show us generosity and grace? What for instance will they do to protect us from Elaine Storkey who clearly wants opponents of women bishops to vanish?

    Stephen Walton

  9. peter, I wonder why you think of it as 'good'?

  10. Thanks for that Peter. Shame we can't get tone on these responses. Clearly some people do think, Fulcrum (say) are highly diverse. Actually, most/all groups & Christians are narrow. Narrow and Reformed, narrow and open, narrow and liberal etc. etc.

    The word that concerned me was, "discrimination", in Jody Stowell's quote above. If she (& others) honestly thinks it is discrimination, as usually understood, then they MUST oppose it. So there doesn't seem to be a huge effort to understand another's view and a word that's chosen that we'd all recoil from. Although, actually, there is a good sort. Fulcrum use it every time they pick a speaker at their conference.

    That word alone (typed, it didn't just slip out, if your stuck for words, get a thesaurus) means that trust can't happen. That and the general way things are discussed.

    What Fulcrum style types need to realise, as one looks to the ECUSA situation, where they are the stick in the mud conservative/traditionalists, is that proper protection benefits them. Alienate the Stephen Waltons and the Ugley Vicar and nobody will stand with them, when it's their turn.

    Darren Moore

  11. Alas, this all seems to confirm that, whatever the 'Evangelical Centre' is, it's a very narrow one - a bit like the 'Liberal Centre' which seems to dominate so much else in C of E life, and these days not very different from it. That leaves a great many of us who can't go down the narrow path of liberal orthodoxy and who get labelled with intentionally derogatory words like 'discrimination', as if that ends the argument.

    Personally, I like discrimination - it allows me to use whatever intelligence the Holy Spirit might have given me to work out the difference between right and wrong, and to contemplate the results of that decision as they work they way out in the decisions of Synod, and other bodies.

    Because we're simply talking about presenting issues here - the underlying principle that orthodoxy shifts according to the mores of the time is the real enemy. And that is where the real split will come, as come it must.

  12. Golly gosh, reading this as a non believer I would have to say that the church is in real trouble. It seems like a moden day version of the Pharasees of the time of Jesus! You guys need to work this out by letting all sides of the argument go, return to simply trusting in you Lord as that's what I see when I read the new testament.

  13. Thank's Steve. I'll be in your neck of the words, at Chelmsford Presbyterian Church quite soon (a "just trust Jesus" sort of place) & I have family in Basildon.

    I guess "just" trusting Jesus means obeying his word (delivered by the Apostolic word and the OT which Jesus affirmed, i.e. the Bible). That means seeing the world rather differently and at times ways that surprise ourselves.

    The Church has always struggled with issues, that's why most of the NT letters and OT Prophets put pen to paper (or whatever to papyrus). Sometimes true brothers have to work through some tough things. Also, Jesus, the Prophets and the Apostles all warned that there will be false-teachers in the Church. So none of this is a huge surprise.

    What's I'd say about the Pharisee thing, is 1st, I never air these things with non-Christians unless they bring them up. 2nd, there is a difference between using one's judgement and being judgemental. We make judgements all the time, e.g. crossing the road. If you are an unbeliever you are using your judgement regarding the truth claims of the NT writers. Where we become Pharisees is when we look down on others and think we are good enough. I don't think I'm "better" than those with whom I disagree on this topic. Nor for that matter with a non-Christian, a Muslim or an axe-murderer.

    However, I think there is a bit of the Pharisee's heart in each of us. The problem Jesus seemed to have with the Pharisees wasn't there theology, so much as their application. Anyone who thinks they have no trace of Phariseeism in them is in big trouble. If you think Church is full of hypocrites, then please come along. We will always welcome one more.

    Darren Moore
    Tranmere (Then Chelmsford from mid-Aug).

  14. Hi Darren
    Is Chelmsford Presbyterian Church a "just trust Jesus" sort of place? I thought it was a Confessional Church.
    Chris Griffiths