Nevertheless, when an organization like WATCH puts up a petition to remove the House of Bishop's very modest amendment to the women bishops legislation, and when that House seems potentially vulnerable to pressure, it probably doesn't hurt to provide a bit of 'ballast' the other way.
Hence, entirely on my own initiative, I have put a petition online to 'Keep Clause 5 (1) c'. The reasoning (which is hard to read on the Change.org website) is below. I've used that website because it is the one chosen by WATCH themselves.
If you want to sign it, go ahead (use the widget on the left or below). If you want to forward it, feel free. If you don't like it, I'm sorry about that.
To view signatories and comments go here.
Petition to the House of Bishops of the Church of England:
Keep Clause 5 (1) c in the Consecration and Ordination of Women Measure.
The Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure is intended to introduce women bishops into the Church of England, whilst at the same time providing for Traditionalists for whom this would be unacceptable. This is a proper aim of the legislation, since according to Resolution III.2.c of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, "those who dissent from, as well as those who assent to, the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate are both loyal Anglicans."
Clause 5 (1) c is a limited and logical provision which rightly belongs in the Measure itself. It states only that, in the Code of Practice to be drawn up by the House of Bishops, guidance should be given as to "the selection of male bishops or male priests the exercise of ministry by whom is consistent with the theological convictions as to the consecration or ordination of women on grounds of which parochial church councils have issued Letters of Request under section 3 [of the Measure]".
Legal advice to the House of Bishops says that the amendment does not introduce the concept of 'theological conviction' into the Measure, pointing out that, "It was already present in clause 3". It also observes that, "the guidance must be directed to the end that *the exercise of ministry* by the bishop or priest, rather than their theological convictions, should be consistent with the theological convictions as to the consecration or ordination of women underlying the Letter of Request." (GS 1708-09 ZZ, 'Article 7 Reference to the House of Bishops')
The amendment therefore does not do some of the things its opponents have accused it of doing. What it does do is clear up an apparent anomaly, that in the Measure itself there is no recognition that bishops or priests provided in response to a Letter of Request need necessarily be distinguished by anything other than their maleness.
The additional provision is therefore 'minimalist', clarifying in part what ought to be a logical necessity -- that if a parish requests particular oversight or other ministry on the grounds of theological conviction, the convictions themselves ought to be respected and maintained in the ministry provided.
If it is argued that the amendment is unnecessary because the Code of Practice will provide what is needed in a form which is 'as good as law', then there is no reason why the provision should not now be in the Measure itself. On the other hand, if there are those who argue it should be removed from the Measure, we cannot believe they will want its requirements then to be put into effect through the Code of Practice when that is drawn up and applied.
The removal of Clause 5 (1) c at this stage would be to abandon even this limited recognition of the needs of some 'loyal Anglicans'. It would also now suggest that the theological convictions of parishes submitting a Letter of Request are actually of limited significance in determining the subsequent provision of ministry.
The amendment should therefore be kept, both in the interests of Traditionalists and of clarity about what the Measure intends.
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