Monday, 2 July 2012

An Anglican Species Becomes Extinct

The Bishop of Lewes
Lonesome George
Last month saw the death of ‘Lonesome George’, the last Pinta Island tortoise.
Next month sees the departure of another ‘last of his kind’, Wallace Benn, the Suffragan Bishop of Lewes in the Diocese of Chichester, who is the only surviving Conservative Evangelical bishop in England who takes the traditionalist line on the ordination and consecration of women.
In fact, Benn was the last such to be appointed, when he took up his present post in 1997. Since then there has been not a single appointment of an evangelical with the same views.
Now those of us watching the debate on the consecration of women cannot help but take note of this fact.
Much has been made by its opponents of what they see as the defects of the 1993 Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod. But as anyone reading the accounts in Hansard will know, the Act of Synod was an essential provision in persuading parliament at the time (and the House of Lord’s in particular) that traditionalist views were genuinely being safeguarded.
And the first provision of the Act was that, “There will be no discrimination against candidates either for ordination or for appointment to senior office in the Church of England on the grounds of their views about the ordination of women to the priesthood.”
Of course, the Act of Synod (as we have often been reminded) is not ‘law’. But it was a commitment in writing. Yet it has clearly, emphatically, been ignored. Indeed in the case of the appointment of the current Bishop of Salisbury, the diocesan Statement of Needs was actually overtly ‘discriminatory’ in this regard — something which I still believe should have been the subject of a Judicial Review.
Yet we — those of us who still have our reservations about women bishops — have been told that graciousness will be enough to safeguard our position and that we ought to accept the assurances we have been given.
Meanwhile, there have been hints, such as when the latest Provincial Episcopal Visitors were being appointed, that ‘something will be done for Conservative Evangelicals’. Yet our own ‘Lonesome George’ is about to pass on, and then there will be no one of that theology who is a serving bishop in the Church of England.
This is one of the reasons why I continue to urge evangelicals to pass Resolution C and why, if and when the new legislation is introduced, I will urge them to petition for whatever alternative provisions are made available.
And this is also why opposition to the House of Bishops’ amendments is so invidious.
If a belief regarding the Church’s ministry is to be upheld in an episcopal church, it must be upheld in the episcopate itself. It is not enough to say, “We acknowledge your views on the ministry, but you do not need actual ministers with those views.”
That is to deny the validity of the views at precisely the point where they are most relevant — something which the Archbishop of Canterbury can recognize, but which seems to escape some of our senior clergy who are widely regarded as candidates for the episcopate.
Whatever happens next weekend, it is time that the Church of England honoured those who belong to its Conservative Evangelical tradition, and demonstrated its own trustworthiness by righting this evident wrong.
All it needs is a diocesan bishop out there with the guts to act.
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  1. John,
    I have felt strongly, for quite some time, that the end was near for Conservative Evangelicals in the C of E. Lord knows, they have absolutely no voice or representation on this side of the Pond. The dominance of Open Evangelicals in organizations such as GAFCON and the FCA prove this. The few remaining can either run-out the clock or choose some other path. Those who stay have absolutely no voice or representation. You are free to hope that the establishment will honour those who belong to its Conservative Evangelical tradition and that they right this wrong; but I believe that you are whistling past the cemetery.

  2. Just on this point: "The dominance of Open Evangelicals in organizations such as GAFCON and the FCA prove this", I have to say you're wrong. I serve on one of the committees of FCA/GAFCON in this country and I can tell you that the evangelical representation is mostly conservative.

    1. John,
      If, as you insist, FCA/GAFCON is made up of mostly Conservative Evangelicals, why are you so concerned about extinction? If FCA/GAFCON is made up of mostly Conservative Evangelicals why do they so blindly support the ACNA, which is anything but Conservative Evangelical? We probably have differing definitions of Conservative Evangelical. I still use only the 1662 BCP, so I am nearer to becoming extinct. I'd be satisfied if the Provinces which claim it and the Articles of Religion would be honest and drop the whole lot and just become whatever it is they intend to, and leave the Prayer Book and Articles to those who honestly respect, abide by and use them. There'd be no place in today's C of E for J. C. Ryle, J. W. Burgon, E. W. Bullinger, or Canon Bryan Greene of Birmingham. That's game and match.

  3. Andrew Godsall3 July 2012 at 10:10

    The problem with the HofB amendments is that they enshrine discrimination in law. That can never be an acceptable way for the Church to behave surely?

    Bishop Alan Wilson made an excellent point on the Radio 4 programme 'The Frock and the Church'on Sunday: the majority of people are against hanging, but we can't allow a few hangings to carry on just to honour those who still feel that hanging is a good idea. What you seem to argue for above is just that kind of thing.

  4. Andrew,
    On the one hand that is a very good analogy, except for 2 things. 1st safe guards and promises made, ignored, then told, "trust us". 2nd, a link from here to Mainstream, to the Mail, where a Gay Tory argued against changing the laws on marriage on the basis that, it is always bad policy to go against a big very opinionated minority. Yes you can enforce the majorities will over them, but there will be consequences.

    But, I really don't think General Synod, nor the House of Bishops have the integrity to uphold passed commitments. They were just interim measures to get their own way, one step at a time. The problem is the Conservative Evangelicals have always played by a different set of rules.

    Darren Moore

  5. Ah yes, the good old C of E. All those traditions - liberal, catholic, evangelical, far left, far right - and all setting an example to the world by managing to rub along together despite their differences. No more, it appears. Synod has become as political as that other governing body that meets across the road in Westminster. How is Christ proclaimed in that?

    And really, Canon Andrew and Bishop Alan, despite the handles to your names, surely you can't believe that such an idiotic analogy as that will help, can you? The 'majority of people' really couldn't care less what Synod does or decides, and quite deliberately supporting legislation that you know is going to provoke a split is a seriously irresponsible action.

    'Let it come', you say, as it did thirty years ago in the USA over such issues. And now the Episcopal church is imploding, fast losing people and money, and racked with lawsuits of its own devising. Is that going to happen here? - it looks very likely at the moment.

  6. Andrew Godsall3 July 2012 at 12:36

    Ah, the old argument about promises made. Best to read Rosalind Rutherford's paper to get to the bottom of that one. I know John does not agree with it but I find its logic hard to argue against. In it she quotes Robert Runcie - one of the best Archbishops the C of E has had - speaking to the House of Lords as the ordination of women debate went through parliament. He said this:

    “The assurances, the special provisions, the extraordinary episcopal oversight are all judged necessary—I accept that—but nevertheless they are symptoms of an illness which replaces trust and good will with the flawed logic of two integrities. It is a sad paradox that those most fearful of one development in the life of the Church should be blind to their collusion with another which seems far more obviously illegitimate within that same spiritual life.”
    Shame we go on making the same mistake, and once again a mistake that you argue for above John.

  7. Andrew, briefly I think the problem comes down to this: if we listen to what many proponents of women bishops are now saying and believe them, then we cannot trust them. Only if we do not believe them can we trust them. And that is a great shame.

  8. I totally agree, 2 integrities makes somewhere between little and no sense. The one integrity that served the church for the best part of 2,000 years will do me fine. After all, I can't see anyone arguing ONLY for women bishops, that means a male bishop is not a matter of controversy, introducing new things does.

    But Andrew, your comments show exactly why there is no trust. One moment people are saying "trust us", the next, "we made no promises". When we went through selection, we brought this up with our DDOs, bishops etc. "Oh, yes, there'll always be a place for you".

    Some years ago I was at a Synod when the women bishop issue was raised and options aired. The flavour was definitely TEA. Everyone seemed to think it was the best option. Suddenly the very people who eloquently proposed it, were ridiculing it and it just wouldn't do.

    OK, I'm (about to be) on the outside of all this. But it seems that the C of E is institutionally dishonest.

  9. Andrew Godsall3 July 2012 at 16:50

    John and Darren I think the problem is that no one really fully understood what the Church of England meant when it taught about the ordination of women back in the 60s and 70s. If you really think it's dishonest and lacking in trust then those are far more serious reasons not to be belong to it than the fact that it ordains women. Time to get your priorities straight I think!

  10. Andrew, one might just as properly ask why those who wanted the Church of England to change, or who now want it to change even further, don't leave and start their own denomination.

  11. Andrew Godsall3 July 2012 at 17:11

    Simple: because ordaining women is not a leaving matter. It is not a fundamental change. But lack of trust and honesty are.
    We are not stopping having bishops or priests. We are simply allowing half the human race to minister in that capacity. The C of E has discerned, over many many years, that this is what seems 'good to the holy spirit and to us'.
    As Bishop Alan Wilson said on sunday, we can't carry on hanging just a few people because a few think we still ought to have hanging.

  12. Andrew, Alan Wilson's argument was very silly. But the answer to dishonesty is not that those who have been treated badly should leave!

  13. Andrew Godsall3 July 2012 at 18:43

    Well we don't agree that it is dishonest John, and it was not me who claimed it was.

  14. Andrew, of course you won't... what would that imply!

    I am leaving the C of E, over a host of issues and in many (most) ways really being attracted by something that is certainly more "me", but also, frankly, a bit more sane. That's not to say everyone must follow, but people have some hard thinking to do.

    HOWEVER, John's question to you is huge and well and truly dodged. If the C of E is so unjust, and was in the 80s, leave, become methodist, or the like.

    The fact that it isn't over fundamentals is a slippery one. If it isn't fundamental, then why insist others go along with it? The opening it up to the other 1/2 of the human race suggests you've not listened to people like John and me all along (which does not help the trust issue one bit). The gender teaching isn't about ability or the like, but expresses things about God, Church, creation.

    In a sense the point for us isn't the specific (although that's far from irrelevent), but being asked to do something that we haven't been convinced about from Scripture (even if we were horribly wrong). And the NT says lots about going against ones conscience.

    "It seems good to us and the Holy Spirit." goes to the heart of where this goes wrong. The problem is that too many people think
    C of E = Anglicanism... it doesn't. The C of E is a pimple on Anglicanism, a speck that does it's own thing. Then another leap is made. Anglicanism = Christianity and that all that matters is now.

    So, where the previous 2,000 years of Christians so non-spiritual & deaf, but now, a group of people (who grow up in the 50s-60s) suddenly have seen, what Athanasius, Augustine, Luther, Cyprian could not? Oh, sorry, they weren't Anglican.

  15. Actually, taking the "most are against the death penalty, but we can't hang a few, to keep those who want to keep it happy." argument, with what I've just said about C of E isn't Anglicanism, isn't global Christianity, isn't historic Christianity... a better analogy would be:

    Everyone wants to keep the death penalty, except the majority of a Cornish village. Oh look the minority of the Cornish village are getting on their high horse.

    Choice of analogy is slightly polemical too.

  16. "If it isn't fundamental, then why insist others go along with it?"


    And Andrew, tell me please: was God "discriminating against" non-Levites in OT Israel when he didn't let them be priests?

    I'd really like an answer to this one. Go on: this is your Matthew 21:25 moment.


  17. A question here: Does God *ever* discriminate against anyone for all or any reason?

    Could he ever be done under the Equalities Act?

    Chris Bishop

  18. Andrew Godsall4 July 2012 at 07:59

    Dan and Chris: I'm pretty sure God isn't discriminatory. But I am sure that people do discriminatory things in God's name and always have done.

    Darren: If you think things were once better, then let's stop women being doctors, or having the vote, or being politicians, or reading the news. These are all VERY recent developments on your scheme of things. People opposed them all when they were introduced.
    And let's bring back slavery. And get rid of running hot and cold. And have no electricity any more. Meanwhile, you seem to forget that the majority of Anglican provinces actually do have women priests.
    And I don't see any one insisting on anything. How much easier this would be if any of us could insist....
    And if I had not listened to people like you and John I'd be insisting on a single clause measure.

  19. Of course God is discriminatory. He discriminates between that which is within his moral will, and that which isn't. He discriminates between narrow gate and wide gate. He discriminates between sheep and goats. Jacob he loved, but Esau he hated.

    The God who isn't discriminatory is not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, nor is he the Father revealed in Jesus.

    The only discussion worth having is how God discriminates and why, not whether he does so.

  20. Andrew Godsall4 July 2012 at 09:33

    Yes, agreed. I was meaning God was not discriminatory in the equalities act sense of the term.

  21. Andrew, is that true about the "majority" of Provinces? I don't know specifically which do & don't. I do know, that many don't and the "big ones" don't.

    The problem with your reply is that it mixes categories. I did not say that everything was better in the past. However, we believe in one holy catholic & apostolic church, we say in Communion "with angels and archangels & all the company of Heaven". So the Church is all the Christians around the world... AND through time. "Listening to the Spirit" and coming up with radically different answers to the Bible and the historic church means we're listening to the spirit of the age, not the Holy Spirit. The Reformers went to great lengths to show that non of their ideas were knew and were pretty common among the church of the 1st 4-500 years. It's interesting when reading Puritans how rare it is for them to quote a Reformer, yet the quote the Fathers regularly. Can we really get a group together, vote on truth, without consulting the church of the past. Are we really closer to truth further away from the source... unless we could some how have access to that source, perhaps in some sort of inspired book?

    When it comes to women in professions, there is no Biblical injunction against that. Nobody, for a moment, has ever questioned women's ability or Godliness. The reason for observing a gender distinction, in a relativly narrow field of ministry is to express something about the created order, indeed as we do in marriage. If we don't respect these things then we are being mere stick in the muds about not going with new laws renaming husbands & wives partners A & B. If gender distinction is merely about plumbing, then we need to chill out about a whole host of things.

    When it comes to slavery... please? 1 Timothy 1:10 is pretty clear isn't it? It seems pretty clear that Paul favoured freedom. His words to slaves are to be godly as slaves. To Masters - to be such good masters people would be as well to be your slave as to be free; given then the alternative may have been to starve. To equate this debate (as people do with the homosexual one) to the slavery debate shows either a complete lack of understanding over the issues, or a deliberate polemic to falsely associate one issue with another so people want to disassociate themselves.

    Also, very few men are qualified to be an Elder/Bishop. But, as John pointed out in the piece that triggered this, when will a Wallace Benn type ever be bishop again? That's descriminatory isn't it?

  22. Andrew Godsall4 July 2012 at 12:20


    There are 38 provinces. The latest figures I have are for 2010 and back then only 9 did not ordain women as Priests. 3 of those ordained them as Deacons. So it is hardly true to say that 'many don't'.

    You must be aware that the biblical arguments against ordaining women are weak and not even recognised as such by many evangelical biblical scholars. Tom Wright is an obvious example.

    As to Conservative Evangelical bishops: surely the crucial thing is that we get bishops who can share the Gospel effectively and teach clearly. If you know conservative evangelical candidates when there is a vacancy you are free to put forward names in the same way as the rest of us do. After that you have to trust the holy spirit don't you?

  23. I think we trust the Holy Spirit by listening to the words that he gave to the Prophets and the Apostles on the foundation once laid, rather than putting words into his mouth.

    Do you mean, to say that Athanasius wasn't trusting the Holy Spirit when the majority of the Church had hetrodox views on the Trinity? That Luther and the English Martyrs weren't trusting the Holy Spirit? Is trusting the Holy Spirit just going with the flow?

    Does that means people like yourself have not trusted the Spirit by having to make changes through Synods?

    I'm aware of the Biblical arguments in the debate. The arguments for have been, frankly hermeneutic gymnastics. If we treated each others words in the same way, chaos would take over. But, in fact Biblical arguments are rarely used. Other than things complimentarians would agree with, "Look, women Ministered with Jesus, Priscila & Aquila taught Apollos" etc.... mmm, yep, good &?

    I wouldn't want to wade in with Tom Wright. He is a giant. But, when he speaks of being from a Reformed stable, I refer you to my example a while ago about my shape. Just because I used to wear 32" trousers, with a 44" jacket at 6' tall, doesn't mean that in 2012 I can still shop at the same end of the rack.

    (I'm sure I'm not the only one who has nominated conservative Evangelicals)

  24. Sorry, should have said, I think many would appreciate having the Biblical discussion again. In every synod etc. I've been to, not a single text has been mentioned, as we assume it's been decided. Also, clearly by what people have said to me, they have no idea what I actually think (e.g. women can't work, or aren't as clever). All I've seen is charactures of an argument, or not very subtle put downs of it (dealt with well, I think in books and sites like Recovering Biblical manhood and womanhood).

    To say the argument is week, would beg the question, can a week argument dupe the Church for 2,000 years?

  25. Andrew Godsall4 July 2012 at 14:32

    So Darren why have 29 out of 38 provinces in very different parts of the Anglican Communion ordained women as priests do you think?

  26. Because, under pressure from what others do and what they want, they have looked for a way to understand the texts in such a way as to muddy the water to get a new understanding. To some degree or another there are strong cultural pulls and, "everyone else is doing it." Why does any other "new" understanding start?

    But again, I'm off to Presbyterian land. There, the C of S & PCUSA have gone off on a different track. EPC (USA) is a very loose body which has taken 2 integrities to another level (but seems to thrive on it). But Confessional Presbyterianism (unlike C of E, Methodism, URC), is thriving. In the places (like England) where it's a new thing it's obviously small, but growing and paying it's own way. No demographic chasm just yet.

    Let me put the question back. Given the radical nature of Christianity from the word go. Why did it take 2,000 years to get to this point?

    Also, why do people like me, who are used to bright women with high power jobs, for whom life would be much easier to go with the flow stick to their guns? In fact, those who pull my leg for being too wishy washy are usually young, well educated women.

  27. this is a bit like who's line is it anyway. Ask Andrew a question and he answers with a question.

  28. Andrew Godsall4 July 2012 at 16:22

    "this is a bit like who's line is it anyway. Ask Andrew a question and he answers with a question."

    And you never see Jesus doing that in the Gospels I suppose? ;)

    It's called dialogue......

  29. Except that Andrew, you still haven't accounted for the OT fact on the ground I mentioned earlier.

    As for the provinces, remember Anglicanism is but a small part of the whole church. I suppose their reasons for this move vary somewhat depending where they are, but I'd guess they were motivated by an evangelistic pragmatism sadly unmatched by theological solidity.

    Suppose, as you say, that Biblical arguments against WO/WB are weak. What exactly are Biblical arguments on the other side? What are the respective proof-texts? Not Galatians 3:28....


  30. Andrew Godsall4 July 2012 at 22:41


    Proof texts? Do you think the bible is a weapon or something?
    As to your OT 'fact on the ground'....I think I did answer. That and something to do with cultural situations seems to be the most likely.

  31. Anyway, the point I made in the original post still stands. The Church of England made a formal commitment which it has not abided by in practice. Names have been put forward for preferment, but to no avail it would seem.

    Unless something drastic happens soon, Wallace will be the last of his kind for a while, which given that he was also virtually the first after the ordination of women is an indication of institutional 'discrimination'.

    However, unless someone's got anything fresh to say, I'm shutting down this thread pretty soon 'cos I have to read all this stuff.

  32. John, do please let this one last post through!

    Andrew: the Bible is of course a "two-edged sword". However I didn't think the expression "proof text" was that polemical - you're welcome to choose a softer term.

    Looking back I fail to see your answer to the issue of Levites. What in their "cultural situation" could have given rise to this particular restriction to one tribe out of twelve - were they smarter or holier than the rest?

    The point, of course, is that God can indeed discriminate without injustice - something which doctrinaire church feminists always assume is impossible as if by very definition. And having done it once, he can do it twice - and there's no universal principle to which anyone can appeal by which to claim the church was sinning for 1900 years.


  33. Andrew Godsall5 July 2012 at 06:30

    Interestingly- and I had forgotten this - Wallace was on the C of E working party concerning women in the episcopate.....I don't recall him dissenting from it.

  34. The Levite thing is interesting. In 1 Kings 12:31, they abandon it. I guess arguing, God loves all Israelites the same. From that verse on, Israel goes down hill.

    It looks like there was no 2 integrities. Traditionalists who didn't accept this innovation were overlooked. Elijah confronted the institution and Elisha worked outside/parallel to it with a faithful remnant.

    Maybe that's the way to deal with the Wallace = the end of the line problem.

  35. Nice to see Canon Andrew winding us all up again. Perhaps he should stick to blogs where they all agree with him.

    Could I suggest, as I have often done before, that the discussion about women bishops is not at all the same as the one about women priests? As evangelicals, we have a low view of the priesthood - there weren't any in the early church (they had left them all in the Temple), and ordination and sacramental considerations are post-NT ideas. Thus we found ourselves in 1994 not worrying too much about issues which, frankly, were extra-Biblical issues. And so Resolution C became largely the province of Anglo-Catholics.

    However, there are Bishops in the New Testament, and they are very much associated with the overall authority of the infant church, an authority which certainly existed in the NT. And they were all male, and the NT perpetuates the maleness of authority by insisting on it. That's difficult to argue with, unless you discredit the authority with which it is made.

    Thus, while we Evangelical would argue that ordination is nothing more than a particular recognition of a specific ministry, consecration is rather different and has rahter more far-reaching implications.

    As I said above, if you want to know what a feminised church looks like, look no further than the church in North America.

  36. Andrew Godsall5 July 2012 at 16:32

    The phrase 'a feminised church' is no doubt intended to be insulting and certainly reads as such. It also demeans those who use it.