Monday, 5 November 2012

Almost one in three Anglicans not committed on women bishops

To be honest, I wasn't sure how to phrase that headline, but I am trying to summarize the response to one question in a survey recently conducted on 'The Mind of Anglicans' by Christian Research.

The survey, key results of which are published in this month's New Directions, questioned over a thousand regular Anglican churchgoers, 90.4% of them laity and 49.2% female, about their beliefs and views on a number of issues.

Question 11.a was this: "The Church of England should follow the example of other Anglican provinces that have consecrated women bishops" and the instruction to respondents was to tick if this applied.

693, representing 70.3% of the total, ticked that it did. And this, interestingly, comes very close to (though at the bottom end of) the range of 'support' suggested on the Yes 2 women bishops blog.

However, presuming that the other 29.7% either missed the question or, for some other reason, felt they couldn't actually agree with this statement, this means almost a third of those in the sample took a different view.

Thus although it would be going too far, on this evidence, to say they actually opposed women bishops, given the opportunity presented by the questionnaire, it would certainly seem they were not prepared to commit to women bishops in precisely these terms.

Meanwhile, 152 correspondents (15.4% of the total) did actually tick the box that said, "It would not be appropriate for a woman bishop to lead." And here, I think, we can be quite clear about their views.

Furthermore, whilst 47.6% of respondents wanted to see women bishops "As soon as possible", and 21.5% "Within the next 5-10 years", 15.4% wanted to wait for a consensus amongst all other churches, and a further 15.5% responded "Never" (and yes, that does add up to 100%).

So even at this stage, over a third of the members of the Church of England in this sample would be prepared to wait a bit longer for women bishops, whilst a substantial minority simply don't want this to happen at all.

Finally, it is encouraging to note that 30.6% of respondents agreed with the statement that those opposed to the ordination of women "Should be enabled to stay in the Church of England by means of some form of provision which meets their position of conscience." (The survey was obviously not able to cover whether the changing proposals being put before the General Synod would actually be viewed as meeting that criterion.)

Only 1.6% (a mere 17 people) agreed that opponents "Have no business being in the Church of England any longer." Compare this with the 7.2% (75 respondents) who felt that opponents "Should have the right to veto the introduction of women bishops."

Right now, General Synod members are being canvassed by the Yes 2 women bishops group to the effect that this development must happen now because the Church overwhelmingly supports it. And yes, there is a large majority who do.

But the position of the majority is more nuanced than the more vocal supporters might want to believe. They do want women bishops, but not necessarily now, and certainly not (in many cases) at the cost of anyone's conscience in the matter.

It would still take courage for the Church to vote 'not yet'. But it might not be the betrayal of the rank and file membership that some are depicting it to be.

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  1. Members of WATCH may have shot themselves in the feet, if I may put it that way. Their lack of tolerance has spread to others to the disgust of a significant minority. Their self interest could now be their undoing. The Church of England may find itself in a similar position to the Church in Wales where failure to make adequate provision for opponents lost the vote.

  2. I can but hope that Synod either changes it for the better or that it fails to pass. Unity over "equality" any day!

  3. Thanks for linking to our website again! You're quite right that there is a significant minority opposed to women bishops, and indeed we say in the site that most supporters of women bishops want to respect the conscience of those opposed. We have never suggested otherwise, and are therefore happy to support the proposals in the measure which ensure that there will continue to be alternative oversight from an appropriate male bishop for people with such views.

    It is important to understand that this is in the face of the measure itself, not just in the code (although the code will spell out the details of how this will work in practice) and this is set out in the legal opinion provided to Synod members in advance of the debate.

  4. I am quite happy to provide links to relevant websites. To coin a phrase, traffic is tr'ffic, whichever way it is going.

    However, I must admit to a certain weariness about corresponding on a crucial issue with an anonymous correspondent. It feels impolite and, frankly, unworthy of Christians.

    Furthermore, the issue is not whether what is proposed is 'legislative', but whether what is legislated is enough, given the history of past reassurances which have been withdrawn and present abuses which bode ill for the future (for example in the appointment of the Bishop of Salisbury, where the profile went directly in the face of the Act of Synod).

    When WATCH and others went ballistic over Resolution 5(1)c as it was, it sent a clear signal that only a 'minimalist' provision would be allowed. And when GRAS published its recent statement, it made it clear that even this provision was, in the minds of some, only mean to be temporary.

    So no, many of us are not reassured and are not persuaded. Bad law is, of course, law, but it is still bad.

  5. Youthpasta

    Unity over "equality" any day

    I don't agree with "equality" at all! and not just because it is simply political correctness. The denial of complementary roles for men and women implies that neither men nor women contribute anything unique to the church because of gender. If we accept this, we accept that males and females are interchangeable components in leadership.

    This is not just bad scripture it is an extremely bad example for leaders of the church. Currently, society says that a father contributes nothing essential to the child that his mother is not capable of contributing. In practice, this means that fathers will be separated from their children. After all, everything will be fine if he leaves, or if he was never there in the first place.

    If you don't care about families in the church, don't care about murder of the unborn, don't care about people finding God in their lives. Then "equality" and Women Bishops are the way to go.

    Go for it! Encourage a yes vote for Women Bishops and then ultimately answer to God as a leader of the Church for all the "unintended" consequences.


  6. BTW, can I just point out in the legal advice appended to the document you reference above, it says in point 4: "Guidance under which those making the selection were to ‘respect’ the relevant grounds of theological conviction would have a less prescriptive effect than guidance under which they were to select a male bishop or priest in a manner ‘consistent with’ such grounds ..."

    In other words, the legislation is at this point weaker than proposals along the lines of the original Clause 5(1)c.

    Once again, I would point out, just because it is 'in the legislation' doesn't mean it is therefore adequate. You have asked elsewhere what Reform etc would accept. The answer is 'something stronger' - which was certainly possible, but is now not on the table.

  7. Phil, this is why I put equality like I did. Equality is not what God wants, He wants everyone to become the person He has called them to be. This differs from person to person, so is not possible to be called equality.
    However, I would still stick to the arguments in my blog regarding women in ministry not for reasons of equality, but because of my conviction through Scripture that it has been ordained by God to be good to do so.
    But, as I have said before, it is not a salvation issue and so ranks far below unity of the Church.

  8. Youthpasta

    In my son's class of twenty five 15 year olds there are two children living with both their natural parents.

    2 out of 25!

    There has been no war, or epidemic.

    The school keeps on offering workshops to "motivate boys". Both the Head and Deputy are female. Girls outperform boys in every subject area.

    So where are these boys going to find some meaning in their lives?

    The church? No it will be offering the same leadership.

    The BNP?

    It happened before.


  9. Phil,
    You need to join an Evangelical Presbyterian Church! We have loads of men, men and women involved in everything. Both involved in hospitality & welcome, both involved in kids/youth/student/music ministry. All male Eldership & Deacons... you'd love it. In fact both men and women have commented (positively) that we're a bit more masculine than other churches they've experienced.

  10. Darren

    I think a lot of us need to and will have to soon.

    The liberal CofE/CofW is becoming/has become a new religion, one that is increasingly hostile and intolerant of those who they decide are not "inclusive" enough or willing to subject the Bible to an "only if it feels right then I will follow it" test.

    If you want/are going to open an Evangelical Presbyterian Church in the Carmarthen area then let us know.

    We would be there. Gyfer Duw (For God)


  11. I have no idea of feasibility, but I'm sure if you go to the EPCEW website, make some enquiries, if you know other people with Reformed convictions around there who are struggling to find a place, I'm sure someone will get a plan together.