Saturday, May 8, 2010

Female Bishops and the Anglican Communion

The ordination of women priests is another of Anglicanism's disturbing innovations and it is causng pain and confusion in that Communion. Arguing about women bishops shouldn't be happening.  The line should have been drawn at the priesthood, since it is ontologically impossible for women to be priests in Holy Tradition.

Here are some expressions of the disappointment among Anglican Traditionalists:

Forward in Faith notes with interest the publication of the Report of the Revision Committee on Women in the Episcopate.

It is of course disappointing - though not surprising - that, after nearly two years' work, the Committee has so singularly failed to take proper account of the needs of all those loyal members of the Church of England who are unable in conscience to receive the innovation of women bishops (and this despite the best efforts of those members of the Revision Committee who are committed to proper provision for traditionalists).

The inevitable result of this corporate failure will be that, in July, this draft legislation will need to be submitted to the most critical examination and, we trust, substantial amendment. We are confident that the senior leadership of the Church of England will recognise that the legislation will not be able to proceed in its present form without excluding a substantial body of loyal Anglicans from the Church of England of the future.

The Report of the Revision Committee, the draft Measure and draft Amending Canon can be found here.

A statement issued on behalf of the three members of the Catholic Group on General Synod who served on the Revision Committee for the draft legislation on the admission of women to the episcopate

We came to this part of the legislative process on the ordination of women to the episcopate in good faith. Our aim, in accepting membership of the Revision Committee, was to work on the legislation sent to that Committee by the General Synod, in partnership with the other committee members, so that (in a notable phrase of the Bishop of Norwich in the July 2008 debate) we might return legislation to the full Synod which offered a sense of joy to every member of the Church of England: joy for those who earnestly desire the admission of women to the episcopate; joy for those who, for reasons of conscience and theological conviction, are unable to assent to that proposed development.

We are deeply disappointed by the outcome of the Committee's work. Not only has there been no progress towards the desired outcome we have described above, but the provision for 'complementary bishops' - successors to the present-day Provincial Episcopal Visitors, popularly known as 'Flying Bishops' - has been swept away. The draft Measure as it now stands offers nothing but the prospect of local arrangements whereby a parish may ask - at the discretion of the Diocesan Synod - for the ministry, in certain very circumscribed areas, of a male bishop or priest rather than a female one. This discrimination on grounds of gender alone is precisely the opposite of what members of the Catholic Group have long argued for. It means that, for example, the ministry of a female priest can be avoided or declined; but that no reservations can be held about the ministry of a male priest who has been ordained by a female bishop. This clearly drives a coach and horses through any continuing sense that two views can be held with integrity in the Church of England about the sacramental ministry of women priests and bishops.

The draft legislation is deeply flawed in other respects; for example it removes the rights of lay people - hitherto enshrined in Resolution 'A' of the 1993 Measure - to require that all priestly ministry in a parish should be carried out by male priests. This is detail. Fundamentally, the draft legislation would render it virtually impossible for anyone to live the Christian life within the Church of England, who had conscientious objections about the ordination of women. Why does this matter? Not only because the ordination of women continues to be a contested development in the life of the universal Church, but also because Anglicans in general - and the Church of England in particular - have always insisted that no-one is to be penalised or marginalised for adhering to the traditional view about gender and the ordained ministry. Those who hold this view are not dissenters or reactionaries but - as the Lambeth Conference of all Anglican bishops has agreed - are loyal members of their church and deserve an honoured place in it.

While the situation has no doubt been in some ways a messy one, the Church of England has lived with a diversity of views on this issue since 1994. 'Traditionalists' have remained committed to the life of the national Church and have contributed - as they wish to continue to do - to its mission to all the people of England. But this legislation would cut off their life blood, and force them out from that same Church of England, to its great detriment. A narrower and more exclusive church would be the result.

We hope and pray that the House of Bishops, and the General Synod, will pause and think again. There must be a better way ahead, which will be good news for all in the Church of England.

Jonathan Baker
X Martyn Beverley
Simon Killwick

No comments: