November 21, 2012 § 29 Comments
I’ll make this personal. I get pre-Synod depression. A day or so before a group of sessions I would rather I was not going. This is mainly because I’ve left it too late to sort out all the other stuff before leaving for London or York. It was no different on Sunday. In the middle of it I started to wonder what I would do if the vote went against women bishops this time. Resignation from the Synod and concentration on the day job seemed the best option.
It’s early on Wednesday morning as I type. After the vote last night I didn’t talk to too many people, and only looked at social media a bit. We will all need to help each other this morning. But here’s where I am.
I have an Associate Vicar and two curates. All women. I am Rural Dean of Beverley, which has a majority of female incumbents and retired clergy. It is only a tiny minority of clergy who will become a bishop…and they need their head examining if they aspire to be one. I’ve worked in a bishop’s office. You don’t want to be one. But this vote pats ordained women on the head and says ‘there there. You’re good for some stuff and not others. Leave it to the men.’ I will affirm, and help, and pray, and mentor and serve and everything else. But, for some years to come there are places I can go that my female colleagues can’t, and that is very bad, and I can’t say any more. Feelings are feelings, but God I feel awful.
Archbishop Rowan said in the debate that if conscience demanded a ‘no’ vote then so be it. The measure was about how different consciences might be accommodated in the same church. I tweeted during the afternoon yesterday that the vote might be swung by people who were for women bishops but who didn’t feel the Measure helped those against. At least two people made such speeches. Well, anyone who voted that way bears a heavy responsibility.
Time after time yesterday bishops said that even if the ‘provisions’ were flawed they would and could be made to work. It is hard to see how a ‘no’ vote works in any shape or form, and those who voted ‘no’ even though they wanted ‘yes’ better have a fabulous solution to hand. Our votes will be made public. I look forward to hearing people’s justification – especially the laity who did not declare their allegiances when they were elected, and especially from those who were ‘for’ yet voted ‘no’. Expect the laity elections in 2015 to be hotly contested. We sleepwalked into this.
I tweeted yesterday that the great majority in the chamber would vote yes – it turned out to be 72%. Yet the speech count was 50-50. That was a superb example of the majority caring for the minority (I called it ‘grace in action’), and Archbishop Sentamu’s chairmanship was exemplary. But I wonder whether it made the ‘no’ arguments weightier for the waverers. There’s probably no other way to do it, but can you have too much balance?
What now? I can’t see much beyond this morning, but…
I’m not going to go on about the procedures and the numbers. I was one of the clergy who voted down ‘coordinate jurisdiction’ two years ago even though a majority was in favour. That’s how it works, and we all knew that the house of laity would be the key.
Many ‘traditionalists’ will be as devastated as me. There is no pleasure in this. But now the ball is in their court. Synod has listened and said: ‘Go on then. You had a point. Give us a solution that will work for the 72% who wanted this’. In doing so they must remember that every option they offered before was tried and found wanting. They need to tell us loud and clear what will really work for us, and tell us that it starts with trust not law. They need to recognise this morning’s devastation, put themselves in our shoes, and talk about what we need, not just about what they need. Synod has ‘preferred’ them. They now need to ‘prefer’ us.
Those who were ‘for’ but voted ‘no’ need urgently to tell us how the church is better for this, and what solutions they will offer. Synod has given them a key platform. They should use it well.
Those for women bishops will be tempted to say: ‘Stuff this. We tried like stink to accommodate traditionalists and look what happened. Let’s just go for a ‘single clause measure’. It is so attractive now to make no provision for those who cannot accept women’s ministry. I’m tempted myself. But… I’m still convinced that provision needs to be made. We who are shattered this morning must not lash out, but take counsel, be restored, regroup, work to make it better. And the majority in the church want it to be better together. That’s what we voted for.
I said this was personal. Last night I agreed with my pre-Synod self. Resignation from the Synod was an overwhelming option. This morning it remains, but there are other considerations. Diocesan bishops can’t resign from Synod, and they need support. More deeply there is this. As a student many of my friends found the option of forming a brand new church attractive, because the established ones weren’t getting it right. I experienced a strong call then to stay, and to ‘renew the institution’. I’ll have to ponder, and see whether staying on Synod is a good way to do this.
It might be that just getting my parish and deanery ministry right is the best way to make the Church of England work, since Synod has so comprehensively fouled things up. But feeling this bad about what has happened is beginning to fuel a determination not to feel this bad again, and to do everything I can to make it right as quickly as possible. Some people need to commit themselves now to the hard yards of prayer and committee work to come up with something better. I’m not clever enough to make any real difference. But I feel so bad this morning that a lot of me wants to make the commitment to support the people who are cleverer than me and who can do it – and to do that from the inside.
After Tuesday comes Wednesday. Devastation. Solidarity. Hope. A better future. We need each other. I think I’m staying.
Sorry. Thank you for listening.
PS: I spent June in Israel. There is bigger stuff going on in the world I know.
November 20, 2012 § 1 Comment
Morning all. We’ve just had a Eucharist on the theme of the Guidance of the Holy Spirit, and a brief but profound homily by the Archbishop of Canterbury about the Spirit renewing our hearts – our ‘centre’. It is a superb feature of what we do that we break bread together and share the Peace with those with whom we will be disagreeing later. My prayer is that this renewing of our centre will happen today, whatever way the vote goes.
The Archbishop of York is in the chair, and has outlined the process. We vote on the main motion – the Measure – at around 5.30, if all goes to plan.
We began things by congratulating Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on their 65th Wedding Anniversary. There was then a certain deliciousness, on this day of all days, that we sang the National Anthem, praying for the life and reign of our female Supreme Governor.
The Bishop of Manchester is opening the debate. He has outlined a little of how we got here, and said that the legislation is not necessarilly what he would have designed, but it expresses a continued commitment to our mixed economy. Even flawed legislation can be made to work. We are not where we were 20 years ago, where a ‘no’ vote on women priests would not have been a great surprise. 20 years on a no vote would be devastating, and would not be understood.
Simon Killwick, Chair of the Catholic Group is now speaking against. The vote is not about Women Bishops in principle, but about whether the legislation is fit for purpose. You could be for women bishops and still vote against. He rehearses the familiar concerns that having an as yet unwritten Code of Practice will allow campaigning bodies to continue to chip away at the mixed economy. And the concept of ‘respect’ (for the reasons for asking for another Bishop or a male priest) is vague.
He believes that the ‘missional disaster’ if we vote it down is ‘hype’, and that significant numbers of people will not mind if we wait. I’ve heard this quite a lot, and am not sure that if I go back to Beverley with a ‘no’ vote people will be roundly congratulating me. He has said that his constituency has tried its best with all sorts of options, but these have ben voted down, even though they commanded significant support. He’s reasoned, but I’m not sure it will carry the day with waverers (if there are any waverers left). Reasonable applause.
Now into the general debate. 72 people have asked to speak, so we won’t get them all, even with a five minute speech limit. I would guess we’re going to hear a lot of ‘let’s got on with it’ and a lot of ‘it’s not good enough’. I’ll report if there is anything which goes beyond that.
Two speeches – there are some brilliant women out there about to be released into further ministry; and there are parishes which we are in danger of losing if we vote yes. I don’t get that threat: the legislation provides all sorts of ways of keeping us together.
The Archdeacon of Hackney, Rachel Treweek, cites the Olympics as an example of threatened disaster turning into triumph. She’s married to a Vicar who ministers in a ‘Resolutions’ parish. We are faithful anglicans who need to work together, not to be protected from each other. Excellent. Some decent fences allow us to be better together and to respect each other. No one is diminished by this measure.
Bishop of Chichester says he agrees with much of what Rachel Treweek says, but comes to a different conclusion about the Measure. He wants more time for us to travel together to come to concensus.
The Bishop of Liverpool speaks of the biblical leadership of women, and notes that we will recognise the authority of the Queen when she gives Royal Assent to the Measure. It is time to enable the leadership of women in all the orders of ministry. Profound speech, and serious and long applause. Perhaps a ‘waverer changer’.
David Houlding says that the legislation purports to be helpful to a minority not one member of which has said it remotely helps. How can you then vote for it? Some ‘hear hears’.
We have been pretty respectful so far, and some contributions have been beyond the ‘tactical’ and into the principle of the thing.
Janet Appleby (who worded the famous clause 5 1 c) says that this is the best compromise we can have. We should trust our Bishops to work this out well for us. To say ‘no’ would be to declare a lack of trust in ourselves and in our Bishops.
Hannah Bate from the Church of England Youth Council. ‘With a God as amazing as ours we do not need to be frightened. We have been discussing this issue for my entire life. Please don’t let me wait until I’m thirty to decide this.’
Next speech is against – perhaps the first of the speeches which says ‘I would have voted for one of the previous things we discussed (how do we know?) but I can’t vote for this’.
It’s hard to gauge things by applause, but there is decent applause for the ‘no’ speeches.
11.50 A lovely interlude now, with a story about God and an otter. Remarkably, it works (for me). We are reminded that Jesus told stories…and that human beings try to cut God down to size.
I’m always humbled and impressed by people who have spent long hours preparing speeches which add to the debate rather than simply replicate the points made by others.
Rosie Harper: a no vote won’t improve the legislation, but will harm our mission and impair the ministry of our new Archbishop before it starts. Please abstain or vote yes. Not sure that a direct appeal to do this will be well received, but perhaps it needed to be said.
Rod Thomas (Reform) has a different take on headshipthan the Bishop of Liverpool. We do not believe that we have to accept the authority of a woman, and in this Measure there is only ‘delegation’ by a woman. It would be unanglican to require us to do so.
Bishop in Europe now. He works with all sorts of denominations…but given the order in which he’s been called he would seem to be speaking in favour….not so. His issue of principle is that the C of E can’t do this alone. If we do this then we must make proper provision, and he does not believe that this provision is enough. He will vote against.
Yet another speech against the Measure. The minority are not adequately catered for. Interesting piece of Chairmanship having three speeches in a row against!
Martin Gorick speaks – quoting Shakespeare who is buried in his church. ‘There is a tide in the affairs of men…’. Now is the time, he says, and he’s excited. Let’s lead the catholic church. We can do this today if we want to.
April Alexander: the talking must stop, and the decision must be taken. ‘There is no better solution round the corner. ‘ We have said ‘no’ to all the other solutions offered by those who are against. We now have an iPad – a square object with rounded corners expensively fought for by the electronic world. +Justin would like this. Who are we to disagree?
Mary Judkins is unhappy about voting yes – it’s a second best. This is not ‘gold’, and this compromise is ‘bronze’. Women deserve better, those who object deserve better, and we need to get the theology right, with regard to roles. I’m listening to this in the coffee room, and there is some incredulity around me. And I had dinner with her last night, and I didn’t know she was going to do this!
12.20. More ‘yes’ and ‘no’ ping pong. +Southwell and Nottingham says that our apostolic mission needs complementarity of ministries. Strikes me that this is another argument you could take both ways: conservative evangelicals argue for a different kind of complementarity. But he goes on to say that ‘no’ could be far more damaging for our mission and ministry…and there will be chaos if we say no. That chaos adds volume to the specific point that voting ‘yes’ is a good thing to do.
12.30. Now got to the stage where I’m looking for smaller matters of interest. The olympics have been cited both for and against. It might not be gold, but bronze will be fine says our latest speaker.
Now wondering whom the Archbishop of York is holding back for this afternoon. Bigger guns should fire – and the Archdeacon of Cleveland wonders whether it will be people speaking specifically about the House of Bishops amandment. It would be good to hear from Bishops speaking about how they would see things working in their patch, and what ‘respect’ means.
Further speech against says that mission will not flourish if the minority is not enabled to flourish under this ‘flawed’ legislation.
Big guns about to speak: BIshop Justin, followed by Philip Giddings, Chair of the House of Laity. Immense hush and attention for +Justin. The church is above all those who are drawn into being a new people by the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit. This is God’s choice, not ours. For this to be convincing we must demonstrate it in lived reality. What is before us today is ‘as good as we can get’ – but our will and attention will be more important than the rules. I am deeply committed to ensuring as far as I am able that what we agree will be carried out in spirit and in letter…that we ‘more than’ respect but love each other. This is not a zero sum decision. One person’s gain need not be another’s loss. We Christians are those who carry peace and grace as a treasure for the world. ‘I urge the General Synod to vote for this motion’. Massive applause.
Philip Giddings: I agree with everything Bishop Justin has said, but I cannot come to the same conclusion. There is some gravity to his delivery, but the arguments are similar to others. He wants the legislation to be agreed by all, and it’s not. Quite a lot of applause.
Ven Christine Hardman, Archdeacon of Lewisham and Greenwich. She has found it hard to know how to vote. Clause 5 1 c is not all that different to what we had in May. She is not against for provision, and is instinctively for inclusion, but does not want that that provision to change the nature of the church. All now depends on the Code of Practice – and it must not cast doubt on the status of our orders, nor create two churches. She has gone as far as she can – and perhaps beyond – with the legislation, and will therefore vote for. To be reconciled is for both parties to go beyond where they feel safe – to ‘betray’ themselves in Fr Ken Leech’s words. That’s where she is. Let’s get off the treadmill, and get going.
2.30. Lunchbreak over. In order to test the voting machines at 1.00 we had a vote on whether to have lunch. A good number of people abstained…
Hard to say what the atmosphere is, though many were heartened by Bishop Justin’s speech.
Archbishop Sentamu has reminded us that an abstention means that, though it is recorded, the vote is not part of the total. In simple terms twice as many people (+1) need to vote for than against. Abstentions are not part of the equation.
Tom Sutcliffe explains why, though in favour of Women Bishops, we should vote against the Measure. The majority for Women Bishops might just be wrong. He has regard for what it is to be a minority. We need to see that women bishops will always be different until we come to one mind. Better to wait.
Pete Broadbent speaks. Apologises for the absence of the Bishop of London – he’s ill. A pity, as the Diocese of London exemplifies how provision can work. The Measure is not as strong as it might be, but now is the time to decide. We have not hurried…more time will not help. We will need to walk alongside each other. The legislation contains enough to help us to do so. Remember that the legislation uses the word ‘respect’ which has a legal opinion behind it, and Clause 8 which clarifies the nature of Bishops. We can use this to walk together – and each Diocesan Scheme will be well poured over. He would like to see Bishops with oversight of those opposed, with the power to sponsor to ordination, make appointments etc, as in London.
There is no monopoly on pain. It will be hard for all of us. But we don’t need to damage the church on the way. Let’s make the legislation work.
Christina Rees. We have the authority to take this decision. Let’s make the journey together. We are in this together, and we can put things in perspective, to get the church doing what the church should.
Stand by your beds. ++Rowan about to speak, after Fr Thomas Seville. Fr TS making the ‘I agree with everything that’s been said but I come to different conclusions’ speech. Not only is he not convinced that women’s priesthood and episcopacy is not witnessed to by scripture or tradition, but also this legislation does not enable trust. ‘Good law makes for trust and makes for relationship’. A Code of Practice will not do.
++Rowan. The debate is addressed to the small number of people who might change their minds. So what are the questions? He has not asked people with serious convictions against to abstain. But there must be some who are genuinely uncertain, about timing and means. So he offers brief considerations. There is a direction discernible in the church’s mind – can there be any reason to stop the church denying certain priests the discernment of episcopal ordination. ‘There is a good Anglican tradition of acting on distinct probabilities’ (do check the quote!).
Is this the right means of doing it? Well, though the Measure is not perfect it states as clearly as possible that the minorities which count have anough pof a presence in law to make a difference. It took him some time to get here, and he says this to encourage others. A thrid question is the effect on our wider society, and for some that may also help them move from ‘no’ to abstain. How much energy do we want to expend on this in the next decade, and how much do we want to bind a new Archbishop. Agreeing this Measure will give a sense of liberation.
‘If you don’t remain completely convinced that the answer is no, then consider voting yes, or abstaining, in a potentially liberating moment for us all’. Sustained applause.
Carol Wolstenhome: remember the majority! They will be debilitated if we say no. Consider the effect on the majority who have asked us to say yes.
Next speaker: the Measure does not provide enough for conservative Evangelicals who want different patterns of ministry. Said graciously. She has come, with a broken ankle, to vote ‘no’.
Rosemary Ryan – still needs to hear conclusively from people who are ‘for’ the Measure. respects those who have come to that conclusion, but she needs to hear properly that she has a legitimate place still in the C of E. We can wait – 20 years is nothing. There is a better way.
Tim Hind (Vice Chair of House of Laity – and contradicting his Chairmon I predict). Time to concentrate on the parochia – those outside, rather than the ekklesia – the gathered. We can’t improve on this legislation. Time to get on with it. Reduction in attendance correlates to the reduction in stipendiary clergy. Not passing this will cause numbers coming forward for ordination to dwindle. Don’t delay.
Ven Jan MacFarlane: is there really anything new to say? It’s a bit of an insult to say there is more thinking to be done. Quite possible that if we rethink the Measure those who are currently in favour my find themselves against it. We can model a way of living together with disagreement, if we are determined to do it.
Charles Razzall. Legislation should not be predicated on a presumption of goodwill. It should protect the vulnerable. Is this legislation as strong as it could be? Regretably it is not. And the legislation reveals ‘an ecclesial half life’ with regard to orders. Vote against, and we’ll start talking tonight.
Bishop of Chelmsford now, making a different speech to the one he intended. +Chichester had said that he was determined to make whatever happens work. So is +Chelmsford – we will make it work!! It is a provision which can work. He believes that this provision is better than the Act of Synod – esp for conservative evangelicals. There is an elegant simplicity to this. You write. We have to respect your reasons and do something. It can work.
Sam Margrave (sounding a lot like Ed Milliband) quotes the Bible on waiting and doing good. The legislation doesn’t meet the needs of the whole church. Wait, be courageous, vote no.
John Shand: is 70, worships in the catholic tradition, and longs to see women bishops. Quotes the story of woman who anointed Jesus. Remember her, put aside the last decade of magaphone diplomacy, forget factionalism. If the measure falls many hearts will be broken. Before you vote, take time, seek the will of the Holy Spirit. Lovely feel to his speech.
Ann Turner understands the drive to do this, but her conscience says that for her, at this moment, women’s ministry is wrong. Respects the decision to have women Bishops, but not at any price. This is not to denigrate the hard work which has got us this far. But we can have the courage of convictions and say no for now. A day will come when yes means yes…it is not now.
Lindsay Newcombe: hopes that her daughter will grow up loving being an anglo catholic, and not have to fight for her place all the time. Take further time to get this right. We want to love each other more. If we say no we can have a loving future.
Suzy Leaf. Bishops today have said they will make this work, but what about their successors? The legislation needs to be stronger than this.
Speaker from the Armed Forces (female Lt Commander) writes policies to keep disparate communities, and says that the words themselves don’t really matter – it’s the carrying out which matters. And there is enough here.
Judith Maltby. All sorts of anglicans come to college chapel, and there is hope. The future is good and bright – and women make up a huge number of ordinands.
John Cook worried about taking stuff to secular courts (1 Cor 6). Taking it that way means we are already defeated says Paul. Paul used Roman courts but not in spiritual matters. We look to the wrong place if we use secular courts to sort out these matters. So he will reject the motion.
Colin Fletcher (Bp Dorchester) beautifully follows on. Used to teach John Cook at Wycliffe. Changed mind on headship. Don’t just read 1 Corinthians, but look to Rome. ‘Rome is our model’. (Read Romans). Only all male group he is in is the House of Bishops, and it needs women in it.
3.55 At this stage I’m not sure if further debate will assist the waverers, or solidify their thinking. Might need a coffee.
4.25. Had a coffee – but picked up on the Bishop of Chester’s speech. He’s my predecessor but one at Beverley. He’s v pro Women Bishops, but not pro this legislation. Of all the positions on the matter I think that this – which he shares with Tom Sutcliffe – is the least helpful, though I do understand it. There will be a great responsibility on those who vote in this way, as they could swing it, and I wish they would simply abstain.
Back to reporting…as long as there is something new said.
4.40. ++Sentamu (in the Chair) reminding us that he’d like us to vote by around 5.30. Hoping to hear lots of people, but has imposed a one minute speech limit. That’s almost a Tweet…
Speaker asks us to vote no because of the provision of the Incumbent to veto a PCC decision to write a Letter of Request.
Bishop of Bradford reminds us that ecumenically our orders are not recognised by Rome anyway. If we didn’t have the authority to make this decision he wouldn’t be an anglican.
Mark Ireland: Acts 15 was a compromise. Peter and Paul probably wanted it nuanced in a different way, but they agreed for the sake of unity.
Gerry O’Brien: if this decision causes one person to leave the ministry of the C of E then that’s a heavy responsibility.
Speaker says the legislation is like a door with one hinge. We are close, but not there yet. Let’s do it differently.
Jane Charman: ‘The spin doctor of divinity does not exist who can make excluding women from leadership sound like good news.’
But it’s all getting a bit fraught and shouty now. Loud applause for Gavin Ashenden who passionately asks us to vote no.
Tim Allen says we will lose more than we gain if we vote no.
5.00. Paul Benfield: we have heard lots about trust, but we also regulate things by canon and statute. With regard to women bishops we are asked to do it simply by trust. (JF interpolation…wrong, wrong, wrong. All but one clause in the Measure is about the regulation of how this will work).
Andrew Nunn: unleash what God is giving to his church. Vote ‘yes’.
Emma Forward. Anglo Catholics are told that they are being ‘heard’. No they are not. Not one person opposed has come close to saying that this will do.
Chris Sugden: we do not make ourselves taller by making other people kneel. Please vote against.
It’s a bit of a slogan-fest now – waiting for the last 4 speeches, where we’ll get a five minute speech limit.
++Sentamu says we have had 100 speeches. He stood all the time in 1992 and was not called. If there is something new to say then do continue to stand. Has called a few people, to have 30 seconds each.
We’ve had a few of the 30 second speeches. He’d like people to stop now. 4 more people standing. Not much really new being said.
Anna Thomas-Betts reminds us that the legislative drafting group, containing all sorts of traditionalists, tried absolutely everything and we’ve got to where we are. Let’s do it.
Last 4 speeches. Philip North (Bishop of Whitby designate). Would rather be having root canal treatment. Can’t see any joy at the end of this. If we vote no then women in ministry whom he values will be massively hurt. Abstaining is not possible – that died with coordinate jurisdiction. Because he values the unity of the C of E he’s voting ‘no’, with great sadness. But…God will be in whatever we decide, and there is work to be done together.
Elaine Storkey. Been listening to everyone. If people believe it is fundamentally wrong then there is perhaps no choice. But be careful with inflammatory language. The future predicted by some will not come to pass. We can love doctrine without being doctrinaire. There are insights to be gained from those different to us. We must share together the vulnerability of Christ on the Cross. Serious applause.
Bishop of Burnley: accepts that women will be Bishops though he does not agree. But holds on to the promise of an honoured place for those like him. He feels not listened to, as each of the possibilities held out were then taken away. The amendment of 5 1 c is not enough. He feels marginalised. There is a danger that we will not listen to each other in future. This is a rush. Where is consensus? We can fix this. He will work with others to move forward with a twin track – but needs proper provision.
Bishop of Leicester. What voice have we not heard? Those who are marginalised in our society…the unemployed, the displaced etc. What would they have made about a debate about things they might not understand and might not really matter to them. Our place in society is very different to 1992. Our 12 year debate has also seen the financial crash as well. We should make our voice heard about issues which wider society really cares about.
A ‘no’ vote will diminish us further in parliament and in wider society. IT always feels worse when the moment of decision comes. Can we let go of our tribalisms? A ‘yes’ vote is for millions of people beyond the church too.
5.44: Sorry…two final speeches. Angus McCleay speaking against. Then +Manchester to sum up.
Angus McCleay says conservative evangelicals have not been appointed to the episcopate in the last 15 years. No hope that this legislation will change that. Cites the Episcopal Church in the US as what can happen. Lots of other points saying why all conservative evangelicals must vote against – but then immediately work towards a better solution.
Bishop of Manchester: last speech. Strongly urges us to vote for the legislation. It was impossible to have legislation to create places in a diocese where the writ of the diocesan Bishop does not run. This has not been a rush, and all available means have been tried and tested. All other ways would store up worse trouble in the future – including the kind of litigation some people fear will result from this. The legislation is comprehensive, and there will be consultation with regard to episcopal ministry for requesting parishes. The legislation can, and will, be made to work. No one is being made to sign a blank cheque on the Code either – see Clause 5. The time is now to say yes. Loud applause….
When it comes: the vote!
Bishops: For: 44 Against: Abst: 2
Clergy: For: 148 Against: 45 Abst: 0
Laity: For: 132 Against: 74 Abst: 0
Lost in the house of laity. Therefore lost. Can’t be considered for a while…we start again.
September 8, 2012 § 2 Comments
The House of Bishops meets this week to talk about the women bishops legislation. Last time they did this they made an amendment which was contentious when they thought it wouldn’t be, and the Synod invited them to think again.
This time there has been a huge degree of transparency, with options published in a paper, and responses invited from anyone who cared to write in.
I have a view, and contributed it as invited, but rather than publicly adding it to the overburdened and overloaded thoughts and prayers of the House of Bishops, I want to take a step back. I want to anticipate what I will do with what they decide, whatever it is.
It seems to me that the wording of clause 5 (which is what this debate has become focussed upon) cannot ever contain the different ways in which our practice will develop in the future.
So last night I asked myself a couple of questions. In November do I want to be part of a Church of England which fails to pass legislation enabling the consecration of women bishops? No, I do not.
Do I believe that the Church of England, if it does pass that legislation, can develop the means to enact it so that those with different views on the matter can work together in mission? Yes, I do.
That means that, as far as I can tell at the moment, I will accept what the Bishops bring to the Synod, and vote for the legislation as they present it – whatever option they give us. I will do this because I think it is within the capabilities of the Church of England to work out its practice with grace and generosity. I will do this because I think people of good will, on both sides of the debate, can and will determine to make it work. I will do this because I believe that there is nothing in what is or is likely to be proposed which can prevent that, if we are determined to make it happen.
The legislation has more than one clause. That is because there are people in the Church of England who cannot, in all conscience, accept the ministry of a woman as priest or bishop. I sat next to such a person for seven years in York Minster, and he is now to be Bishop of Beverley. The reason I am thrilled about Glyn’s appointment is that he holds those views with deep integrity and great grace, and aims to work for rather than against people. He is the embodiment of why I think that, with such grace, we can make this work.
The tweaking of clause 5 will not make views against the ordination of women disappear. What will mitigate the effect of our differences is not a perfect wording, because I don’t think that such a thing exists. What will save us is a determination to work this out with best practice, accepting each other’s differences even if we think they have no logical or theological validity. That, it seems to me, is the practice of the Church of England, and what makes us the denomination I love.
So, I’m determined – at the moment – to accept what the Bishops bring. There are, of course, some options which I think will help us more than others. After all the consultation, they should be able to see that. They have hard work to do, and they will be prayed for. But, after votes in Synod and Parliament, the real hard work will begin. And I believe we have what it will take for that work to succeed.
July 10, 2012 § 9 Comments
So…we adjourned. I voted to do so, because the antis would vote against final approval anyway, and many of those for women bishops would have done so as well. There were some powerful speeches about how the Bishops’ amendment was perceived, and about its unintended consequences.
I’ve said before that I don’t think the amendment in itself deserved all the opprobrium it received (because the ‘theological convictions’ it speaks of are referred to elsewhere in the measure – Paras 2 (4) and 3 (1) and (3), and are there on the ground – that’s why there’s a second clause at all); but the wording, and the manner of its communication (remember the press release?) unleashed all sorts of pent up anger. Best then to release the steam, and, after it’s gone, see how the landscape has changed.
So, what now? The House of Bishops will meet again in September. Anyone with an interest will be letting their Bishop know what they think. Some Bishops will be convening groups to get their views. The key players in the process should be the Steering Committee – the General Synod appointed group who have been doing the ‘hard yards’ with the detail of the legislation. All the way along the Steering Committee has subjected the wording of the legislation to a kind of ‘destruction testing’ – like those machines in IKEA which mimic someone sitting on a chair 50,000 times. If a wording was not tested successfully it didn’t get in.
This is crucial. The things which have caused bother are those proposals which haven’t been properly tested. ‘Coordinate Jurisdiction’ was suggested by the Archbishops, and (just) failed. I’m glad it did – if the ‘theological objections’ clause caused such a bother, what would people have done with a law which allowed a women bishop to be by-passed all together? The Steering Committee could not recommend it, and that convinced me to vote against in 2010. Similarly the ‘theological convictions’ wording came at a late stage (four days before the House of Bishops Meeting, I think), without time for it to be tested out. The Steering Committee could not recommend it, but the House (we gather narrowly) passed it.
[The same was true, of course, about the other amendment made by the Bishops, the one about ‘delegation’. But this had been aired pretty well in February, and was not found wanting. There is a view that if the Bishops had voted on this one before the amendment about ‘theological conviction’ then many would have felt that enough had been done to help opponents. But ‘delegation’ was in Clause 8, and ‘theological conviction’ in clause 5. Numeracy is our enemy.]
Lots of people will now be suggesting wordings which might work. Simple withdrawal probably won’t do. The antis saw the wording as a help to them, and would regard its complete removal as a snub. Those who hated the inclusion of ‘theological objections’ were gracious in saying that they could see what the Bishops were trying to do, and will presumably want to help the Bishops to offer enough to the antis without enshrining what is perceived as a kind of theological misogyny in the law of the land.
There is no statutory process for how to do this. The Archbishop of York referred to ‘the usual channels’. I’m not one for prescribing – but here goes. The Steering Committee must be allowed to be proactive in seeking and generating forms of words for a revised Clause 5 (1) (c). The Steering Committee must then be allowed to test these out with properly representative groupings. I, for one, was affected by the letter from ‘Senior Women’, and the views of this group, as well as the Catholic Group, FiF, WATCH and the others must be sought before the Bishops meet, not after. The Steering Committee will be there when the Bishops meet. With the widest range of evidence at its disposal it should be a key resource as the Bishops deliberate. We have had one experience of an unexpected reaction to a well meant form of words. There is no time for another.
PS: the ‘variable’ in all this is how the antis will vote at Final Approval. If you cannot accept women bishops then even adequate provision for you to remain in the C of E could not enable you to vote for the Measure. But, with adequate provision generously offered, could you abstain?
July 9, 2012 § 3 Comments
Good morning all. We are just about to start our debate on Women Bishops.
You will know that the smart money is on the debate being adjourned so that the amendment made by the House of Bishops can be rethought, but it’s not a foregone conclusion.
The Bishop of Manchester is about to move the main motion. We will then immediately debate whether to adjourn, and the Chair (the Archbishop of York) has said we’ll debate the adjournment for a good half of this morning. If we don’t adjourn thn we debate the main motion (and the feel is that if we do it may well be lost).
Off we go… « Read the rest of this entry »
July 8, 2012 § 6 Comments
I’m away from Synod until Monday morning, so can’t indicate an intention to speak. Here’s a thought or two.
My first reaction to the House of Bishops’ amendments was that they seemed to have listened carefully to what was said in February. Those who are protesting that they made amendments at all forget that we spent three hours at the last Synod telling them that they could and might. We didn’t vote to tell them to leave absolutely alone, but invited some changes, as long as they weren’t ‘substantial’.
I didn’t respond badly to the inclusion of the phrase ‘theological convictions’ in the Measure, and didn’t think this was a ‘substantial’ change. Since 2009 we’ve been working on the second of the clauses in the Measure, which is there precisely because of these ‘convictions’. It seemed to me to be helpful to make it clear that the Code of Practice in each diocese would have to deal with this. After all, for eighteen years parishes have been asking, and for eighteen years Diocesan Bishops have had to make arrangements for them. I didn’t think that this amendment changed anything.
I still think the same. « Read the rest of this entry »
July 2, 2012 § 11 Comments
Yesterday I went to an ordination. 8 deacons were going to parishes. 6 women and 2 men, going to parishes served by 5 male and 3 female incumbents. At the service the DDO and one of the cathedral canons were women, the Dean of Women’s Ministry took part, and, as it happens, the Diocesan Registrar was a woman too. It is absolutely essential (for me) that we proceed to enable women to be ordained to the episcopate, and as soon as possible, so that, perhaps in 2014, one of the people taking part would be a woman bishop.
That’s what makes the events of the last few weeks so difficult to read. As I posted in my last blog, lots of people I respect have come out so strongly against the amendment made by the Bishops that it’s hard to see how the current Measure could pass a week today. Putting the phrase ‘theological convictions’ in the Measure has generated a profound response.
I still think that the reponse is an overreaction – any Bishop providing another Bishop for a ‘requesting’ parish will have to take the reasons for the request into consideration. The whole point of a two-clause Measure is to take those objections seriously, and I don’t think that the amendment from the House of Bishops gives those objections any more or less theological credibility: they are a current fact to be taken into consideration.
But I’m not sure that the Synod debate in a week’s time will be enough to weigh the strenuous and understandable objections to the amendment, such that those who feel it is a step too far (Women Bishops, ‘but not at any cost’ says the WATCH advert in the Church Times) can have their concerns properly addressed. The response has been so great and so concentrated that the opportunity for more measured consideration given by an adjournment might be a welcome one.
I’m with the Church Times on this. Last Friday’s editorial said that an adjournment might now be the best way forward, but that the House of Bishops should not be treated as if it had done its homework badly and should do it again until it got it right. I do think that the intention of the amendment was within the nature of the debates we had had so far, and that the reaction has been overcooked, though I’m at pains to say that I understand where the objections come from.
I hope that, in whatever form we discuss it on Friday this week and Monday next week we can let the Bishops know that we need Women Bishops now, that those who cannot accept their ministry (or of those men who ordain or who have been ordained by women) should be treated with grace, and that the ministry of all Bishops is to be seen as equally valid and honoured. It would be awful if it all fell apart next Monday.
Perhaps we need the space that an adjournment would give. But I’d give anything for that not to be the case, and would love to hear from those who have reacted so strongly to the amendment, to see if anything can be done to pass the measure as it stands. Will 4 days talking be enough?
June 25, 2012 § 3 Comments
Members of General Synod received the following email today from ‘senior women clergy’. They are indeed senior, experienced, and absolutely united.
They include: The Venerable Christine Allsopp; The Very Reverend Vivienne Faull; The Reverend Canon Jane Hedges; The Reverend Lucy Winkett (full list below).
Following the House of Bishops’ amendments many people have asked for the perspective of senior women clergy regarding the Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure as it now stands.
We the undersigned wish to express our deep dismay at the introduction of Clause 5(1)(c), which has serious implications for the way the Church understands itself and undermines women so profoundly that we are now unable to support the Measure.
We recognise that bishops voted in favour of this amendment in good faith, believing that further assurances for those unable to accept the ministry of ordained women would help secure the Measure’s passing.
However, with the introduction of this clause the Measure is likely to be defeated. It is therefore our hope that the General Synod will adjourn the debate in July and return the legislation to the House of Bishops for further reflection. This will give the opportunity for the Measure (as passed by 42 of the 44 dioceses) to be returned to General Synod for approval later in the year.
For someone like me, totally pro-women Bishops, and hopeful that at least one of the signatories would be a bishop before long, this is a significant move. They don’t go into the reasons for their opposition to the House of Bishops’ amendment, but there has been such an outcry that they don’t need to.
As I said before, it seemed to me that the House of Bishops’ clarifying the reasons why a parish would need an alternative bishop (and therefore what kind of bishop to provide) was just common sense. On the ground it is exactly what every diocesan bishop will (or should) do when responding to a letter of request. But it is now clear that ‘naming’ these ‘theological convictions’ in the Measure is felt by many as solidifying a situation that they hoped would be subject to change. Those who are most in favour of women becoming bishops are not prepared to have the objections to this ministry (and the ordination of women in general) ‘named’ in legislation, preferring this to be worked out in practice rather than legitimized (and fossilized) in statute.
I still don’t think that the amendment is a bad thing, and think that it will not become fossilized in this way. But I am persuaded that so many people think differently that the only thing the House of Bishops can now do is to let the debate be adjourned, and talk to as many people as possible as quickly as possible to bring back a Measure in November which will honour objections held with integrity, and honour the ministry of women (and men ordaining women) without preserving the whole situation in aspic.
The Venerable Christine Allsopp (Archdeacon of Northampton)
The Reverend Canon Sarah Bullock (Bishop’s Advisor for Women’s Ministry, Diocese of Manchester)
The Venerable Annette Cooper (Archdeacon of Colchester)
The Venerable Penny Driver (Archdeacon of Westmorland and Furness)
The Very Reverend Vivienne Faull (Dean of Leicester)
The Venerable Karen Gorham (Archdeacon of Buckingham)
The Reverend Canon Jane Hedges (Canon Steward & Archdeacon of Westminster)
The Venerable Canon Janet Henderson (Archdeacon of Richmond)
The Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin (Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons)
The Reverend Rosemary Lain-Priestley (Chair of the National Association of Diocesan Advisers in Women’s Ministry)
The Very Reverend Catherine Ogle (Dean of Birmingham)
The Very Reverend June Osborne (Dean of Salisbury)
The Venerable Jane Sinclair (Archdeacon of Stow and Lindsey)
The Reverend Canon Celia Thomson (Canon Pastor, Gloucester Cathedral)
The Venerable Rachel Treweek (Archdeacon of Hackney)
The Very Reverend Dr Frances Ward (Dean of St Edmundsbury)
The Venerable Christine Wilson (Archdeacon of Chesterfield)
The Reverend Lucy Winkett (Rector, St James’s Piccadilly)
June 16, 2012 § 9 Comments
There’s a convention in cricket reporting that goes something like this. At the end of a day where there was great progress by the batsmen followed by a clatter of wickets at the end, the summariser will say: ‘if you’d told the captain at the start of play that England would be 300 – 6 he’d have probably accepted it quite happily’.
If you’d told supporters of women bishops in 2009 (when this measure started its progress) that in July 2012 we’d be looking at the current legislation, would they have been happy with it? There is no ‘coordinate jurisdiction’, no ‘society model’, no spelling out of matters of lineage or sacramental assurance. There is a requirement for all parishes to acknowledge that the diocesan bishop has the legal authority to delegate that ministry to another bishop, and a requirement that a parish wanting alternative ministry should receive that only according to their expressed theological convictions about the ordination of women.
None of what is in the legislation before General Synod in July changes the situation on the ground with regard to the provision of ministry to and within parishes which object to the ordination of women. We have lived with this division since the Act of Synod in the 1990s made provision for parishes to ask for another bishop. But the amendment made by the House of Bishops clarifying that a ‘requesting’ parish should be offered a bishop in line with the ‘theological convictions as to the consecration or ordination of women’ expressed by the parish has lit the blue touch paper, and I’ve been taken by surprise by this. « Read the rest of this entry »
March 6, 2012 § 6 Comments
March 2012 finds us waiting and wondering. The February Synod is past, the House of Bishops meets in May, and the final votes on all of this take place in July inYork. After the debates last month I think I’m hopeful. But I’m worried too. There is more than one knife edge on which we are balanced.
I’m hopeful because I think those who are looking for safeguards can find them in the Measure and its Code of Practice. I’m worried because those same people don’t seem to think so, and in February pinned their hopes on something – legislation rather than code and ‘coordinate jurisdiction’ rather than delegation – which I don’t think would do what they think it would. And I’m worried that those who are actively for the Measure are being polarised the other way, and that language about ‘discrimination’ just enflames things. It’s quite possible that a nudge towards the opposers might not be enough for them but too much for the supporters, and elements of both could vote against – the nightmare scenario.
On balance I’m on the hopeful side. Here’s why.
We were assured more than once in Synod that the combination of a Measure and a Code is much stronger than an Act. It’s all about language and perception. Just because there is a measure and a code doesn’t mean that they can be changed on a whim, and all Bishops will be bound by them. Just because it’s a Code doesn’t mean it can be disregarded like some ‘codes’ (eg the Press) people know about. The fact that each diocese will have an individual Scheme which enacts the Code and Measure code doesn’t mean that they will be radically different from each other, but rather that these things will be worked out locally and appropriately. A bishop will be a bishop, and it is structure rather than quality which will be different locally – just as it is now. Some dioceses (like my own) have no need of ‘flying’ bishops, some do.
But those opposed are worried that the seemingly ‘softer’ language of Code, Scheme and Measure meanthat provision for them will not be robust. I don’t think this is so, but it’s hard to prove.
It was very good to have an illustrative Code of Practice to help the February debates. Before it was released traditionalists could wave a blank piece of paper around and say that they could not trust something they knew nothing about (and one of my friends did just that). The only way they could be safeguarded was by law. Specifically they had to have what the Archbishops proposed in 2010 – ‘coordinate jurisdiction’. How, they said, could an objecting parish guarantee that they would be looked after by a bishop they could trust? How could they receive the ministry of a bishop ‘delegated’ by a diocesan whose orders were in doubt? Hence the desire to have a bishop whose authority came via the Measure, and not directly from the Diocesan Bishop, so their jurisdiction would be coordinate rather than delegated.
In the debates, and since, traditionalists made it clear that to vote against coordinate jurisdiction was to vote against their place in the C of E. I couldn’t see how this worked, for a number of reasons. Even with CJ the Diocesan Bishop is the Diocesan Bishop, losing none of their powers. If CJ is required because of doubt about the orders of the Diocesan, how could a ‘safe’ bishop’ share his ministry with them, and how could a parish accept that their diocesan was indeed their diocesan? In the debate we were given various examples of CJ – Cyprian in the third century, the Archbishops ofCanterburyandYork. Archbishop Sentamu even said that Diocesans are suffragan bishops of the metropolitan bishop. But every example quoted depended on mutual recognition of orders – indeed they need such recognition to work. The version of CJ being asked for depended on orders being publicly shown to be in doubt.
My other concern was that CJ was only about legal delegation. The Code and Measure make clear that a parish making the right kind of request will receive an appropriate Episcopal ministry. The Diocesan Bishop is legally bound to enable this, and will remain the diocesan. I could not see that the Diocesan Bishop could be separated from their legal role in enabling ministry across their diocese. People asking for CJ were asking for the Diocesan to be divested of powers which are only legal, not sacramentally Episcopal.
In the House of Bishops introduction to the Code of Practice, and in a speech in the debates, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan offered a distinction between the derivation of episcopal authority and the delegation of episcopal powers. A bishop delegated by a ‘doubtful’ diocesan bishop does not have their ministry ‘tainted’ or called into question. What ever the nature of the orders of a ‘doubtful’ bishop they are legally the diocesan, and even CJ accepts this. Therefore they have the legal ability to delegate episcopal ministry.
Synod, in rejecting a call to ask the House of Bishops for CJ seemed to accept this. If the House were to give us something slightly more developed about this I think it could work. That’s my hope. My worry is that the language is so polarised that the nuances of this are lost behind ‘delegation bad – CJ good’. I don’t think CJ worked theologically anyway, and as such it became a bit of a fig leaf. But for some it’s a secure fig leaf, and the stronger garments of skin with which God replaced the fig leaves don’t look good to some. To accept delegation is not to have to accept sacramental orders, only legal power. But it doesn’t sound like that.
In his speech the Archbishop of Canterbury also indicated that there was a genuine concern that the Measure and Code were not clear enough about the theological nature of objections to women bishops (and to those bishops who had themselves been ordained by women or who ordained women), and were not clear about what sort of male bishops were able to be offered to traditionalists. I hope that the House of Bishops will be able to make things clearer. It is not just about male and female, and there will be male bishops who are objected to as well as female ones. Some further delineation of the theological matters under question would be good. And if that flushes out some underlying beliefs about ‘sacramental assurance’ and the ‘pedigree’ of ordained ministers then so much the better.
So: I think February’s debates have moved us on. The House of Bishops gave us some words about delegation and derivation which should preserve the consciences of those who cannot accept the ministry of women as bishops, or of men who ordain or have been ordained by women. Coordinate jurisdiction was, I think, a blind alley, and a Code which makes very clear how a diocesan can be a diocesan and joyfully enable the ministry of a bishop acceptable to certain parishes without compromising that ministry sacramentally will be a welcome step forward. That Code is very nearly in existence.
That’s the hope. The worry is that caricaturing on both sides will continue. And, though the figures have consistently shown a majority way in excess of 2/3 in favour, the composition of the Synod is such that it could be very tight in July. So we’ll need to listen to each other. I just hope we listen to what’s underneath the words, and not set up false oppositions, and fig leaves which blow off in the wind.
The only body which can propose amendments to the Measure is the House of Bishops. The debates in February were a way of influencing their debate. Synod, reasonably conclusively, asked for more of the same, not a revision in favour of CJ. What the House can do is flesh out sections of the Code and give us a commentary to show how this works theologically. They can also demonstrate how a Measure, Code and Scheme are robust, binding and long-lasting, so that it is not just objectors now but in the future who are guaranteed their ‘honoured place’. If they get this right then we will be able to enact what everyone says we want: to move on, together, and do some mission. Amen to that.