ABC’s Speech on Women Bishops to Parliamentary Committee

Women bishops: Abp Welby’s speech to Ecclesiastical Committee

Posted on: July 23, 2014 4:29 PM

Related Categories: Abp WelbyEnglandwomen bishops

From Lambeth Palace

Archbishop Justin Welby outlined how General Synod came to approve legislation allowing women to become bishops in the Church of England.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, addressed the Parliamentary Ecclesiastical Committee yesterday about new legislation allowing women to become bishops in the Church of England, which was approved by the General Synod last week.

A transcript of the Archbishop’s speech follows: 

I’d like to place on record my gratitude, and the gratitude of all of us, for your willingness to arrange today’s session so close to the final approval vote in York. And to affirm that, as we said to you, we knew that if we didn’t get started until the autumn we risked losing momentum, and might not make it for the November Synod session so that we could enact the Canon when we meet on 17 November. But that is, of course, entirely dependent on the judgement this committee has to make, and the decisions that would then be for the House of Commons and House of Lords.

It’s worth noting, you commented on the eight annexes; we have tried to make them complete. I know they are a huge amount of reading and it’s very good of you to have read them so quickly. My predecessor, Rowan Williams, said that he could not understand why a yes or no question – should the Church of England have women bishops – had generated arguments of length and complexity as to make the Schleswig-Holstein question look relatively simple.

The annexes you have are absolutely central to the package the Synod agreed last week. The debate was of a particular form which meant there could be no closure until everyone had spoken. You weren’t allowed to move to next business or do anything else other than limit the time for which each person spoke. I think we had 74 people speaking, something of that order, from a Synod of over 400 people – and this was not the first time we’d had this discussion. On this particular measure it’s the third time, and on the previous measures and discussions of this subject – going back over 30 years – we’ve had this discussion at some length.

However, we did go through the whole process properly last Monday with great care, chaired by Archbishop Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, the other President of the Synod. The result of that was that we achieved majorities in all three houses of the Synod: 95 per cent in the House of Bishops, 87 per cent in the House of Clergy and 77 per cent in the House of Laity. The pass mark being two-thirds, we were comfortably through on all of them.

It is worth emphasising that the debate last week was not as to whether women should or should not be bishops – that was decided some time ago; it was as to whether this particular form of the process was one that was the best and most appropriate way of dealing with it.

It is also worth saying – and this was said in the debate, and in reporting on it I need to affirm that very clearly – is that inevitably in something of such long drawn out discussion, and following the failure of the measure in November 2012 by six votes in the House of Laity, it is fair to say we’ve not ended up where any of the main groups in the Church, left to themselves, would have chosen. The traditionalists would have preferred structural solutions with additional dioceses or provinces or transfers of jurisdiction between bishops.

Other groups – for example, WATCH – always argued that there should be as little as possible written down and that we should simply change the law and rely on individual bishops to make pastoral provision locally as a matter of grace and courtesy. That would obviously in many ways be an ideal way forward; but we need to bear in mind that there has developed a culture of, I think suspicion would not be putting it too strongly, which – despite the remarkable work of the 18 months or so since the failure of the November 2012 measure – has not been completely removed; it has been substantially reduced. Even now, I am sure that you will have heard from those who regretted that such and such an element did not feature in the overall package, and we have to bear in mind that when people feel that for theological reasons they are correct in a particular approach, they tend to have strong views about it. I think my experience in office would have convinced me of that even if I didn’t know it before.

The Bishop of Rochester, on my right, chaired the steering committee with enormous skill, and it was their report last October that constituted the breakthrough. Thirteen of the 15 members were prepared to commend it. It was very unusual to have 15 members on the steering committee: we put in everyone right across the spectrum so that the steering committee was a sort of microcosm of the Synod – and that was a deliberate process so that all the arguments were in the steering committee.

We also had a day, a year ago, in the Synod of facilitated discussion around the subject, in small groups, which had never been done before, organised by David Porter with a very significant number of facilitators from around the country – and that, I think it would be fair to say, I’m not exaggerating, has completely changed the atmosphere among the vast majority of the Synod: not only on those matters, but generally in the way we deal with each other. For a number of people it was the first time they’d met those with whom they disagreed.

It was on the back of that that we managed to secure an acceleration of the process through the Synod, the agreement of all 43 dioceses who voted on the package – one diocese, after we’d got through the previous round in February, normally we would have had to wait until November. Standing orders were waived, if I remember rightly, that required a three-quarters majority, which we got. We actually got 90.3 per cent on that occasion, and as a result we were able to shorten the consultation period and take the revision stage over the last series of Synod meetings a week ago.

In the intervening few months a majority of dioceses had to vote in favour or against in their diocesan synods. Forty-three of the 44 met – the one who didn’t was Europe, which extends from Vladivostok to Casablanca, and therefore meetings are a touch difficult to arrange. All 43 voted in favour; on the November 2012, 42 had voted in favour. There is much more that I could say, but I hope that gives you a reasonable scope for consideration.

Watch the full hearing on the Parliament TV website

Further news and comment on women bishops:

Update Wednesday morning
Frank Field MP tweeted at 6.02 pm on Tuesday that “Ecclesiastical Committee, of which I am a Member, has just unanimously approved the women bishops measure. Hurrah!”

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The Report of the Archbishop of Canterbury ++Justin Welby, contained the following phrase that said much about the preparation that has gone on in the Church of England, that led towards the decision to ordain women to the rank of Bishops in that Church:

” On this particular measure it’s the third time, and on the previous measures and discussions of this subject – going back over 30 years – we’ve had this discussion at some length.”

The archbishop’s broad outline of the procedures leading up to the eventual acceptance by the General Synod would have satisfied the Ecclesiastical Committee of the British Parliament – that the vast majority of the Church of England membership was behind the G.S. Measure which now allows – with parliamentary approval – the legislation to go forward.

There is a minority of bishops clergy and laity of the Church who are still resistant to the theological basis on which women have been ordained deacons and priests in the Church of England; so that ‘special arrangements’ to accommodate their acceptance of only male clergy and bishops to minister to their particular congregations, is now built into the ‘code of practice’ that has now become part of the legislative package approved by the General Synod.

From his assurances given for these provisions for dissenters, it is hoped that Parliament will recognise that all possible has been done to ensure a smooth transition of the necessary Bill empowering the Ordination of Women Bishops in the Church of England to go ahead.

If all goes well, the actions of Parliament will proceed smoothly, so that the next session of the General Synod in November of this year.will be able to finally approve the legislation. This has been a very long journey for many in the Church of England who have longed for the time when women would be given equal responsibility with men for the leaderships and ministry of the ‘Mother Church of the world-wide Anglican Communion. Their patience has been rewarded!

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Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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S.E.C. Response to Mosul – A Babylonian Lament

Why we sang a lament today

Posted: 20 Jul 2014 07:20 AM PDT

It has been a pretty depressing week on the news front. The downing of the plane in the Ukraine, the continued terrorism of Boko Haram in Nigeria, the invasion of Gaza and the oppression of the Christians (and other religious groups) in Iraq by ISIS have been a huge amount of negative events that feel terrible.

As I was preparing to take the worship this morning, I saw a picture of an 1800 year old church burning in Mosul in Iraq.

Now, burning churches are just buildings but this seemed to represent the organised oppression of a whole communion. They Christians of Mosul have been told to convert to Islam, pay an infidel’s tax or be slaughtered. They are one of the oldest Christian communities in the world and thousands of them have now fled for their life, their homes being marked by ISIS with a symbol indicating that Christians live there allowing particular buildings to be targeted.

I decided this morning that our worship needed to include something that had not previously been planned for. I decided to include a lament. Given that the city of Mosul sits astride one of the rivers of Iraq (ie Babylon) it seemed appropriate to sing from Psalm 137 – by the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept.

Now the context from when it was first sung to our present age is different but the sense of lament is the same. Lament is what happens when anger and sadness meet and start to sing in harmony, creating a song that suggests that the singer is not happy to let the world rest in its current state.

And so we sang the simple round, “By the waters, the waters of Babylon” during our worship at St Mary’s this morning.

[You can hear others having a go at singing it over on Youtube]

It wasn’t the most dramatic or glorious music we’ve had in St Mary’s recently. However, it was some of the most heartfelt.

When we meet on Sunday’s our songs are generally songs of praise and rightly so. However, we have other songs in our repertoire. Today was a day for lament. And in lamenting to claim that a better world is possible.

The post Why we sang a lament today appeared first on What is in Kelvin’s Head?.

 

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Yet another article from the Scottish Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow – St. Mary’s – where the Provost, Father Kelvin Holdsworth, now draws attention to the plight of Christians in Mosul – at the hands of the revolutionary Sunni Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

All Christians need to pray for the Christians of Iraq and Syria, whose religious and simple human rights are being taken away by a fundamentalist brand of the Islamic Faith that does not even recognise the authenticity of its own Muslim religious Shia branch of Islam – which used to co-exist peaceably with the Sunni Muslims during the time of the dictator Saddam Hussein in Iraq – has now joined up with other Islamic fundamentalists from Al Qaeda to declare war on both Shiai Muslims and Christians, with the aim of demanding their conversion to Sunni Islam, or living with the threat of their summary expulsion from Iraq and Syria.

The current offensive tactics against Christian in Mosul is all the more regrettable, because of the the fact that the Chaldean Church has its origins in Iraq (the former Babylonian territory).

The expulsion of a Christian monastic community from Mosul could spell the end of the Christian presence in that place, and is an ongoing threat to all Christians in both Iraq and Syria. This state of affairs could well indicate a time of great persecution of Christians in the entire Middle-East.  Jesus, mercy; Mary, pray!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Commonwealth Challenged on Human Rights Record

Peter Tatchell Human Rights Lecture

tatchell

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell visited St Mary’s on 19 and 20 July 2014. He give a lecture on Human Rights and the Commonwealth in the week before the Commonwealth Games begin in Glasgow.
The lecture can be seen below

The Forum Conversation with Peter from 20 July 2014 can be seen below:

Photo credit – Matt Buck (c) Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

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Dean Lynda Patterson – Loss of a Taonga in ACANZP

Christchurch mourns the loss of Dean Lynda Patterson

Christchurch is grieving over the loss of Dean Lynda Patterson, who died at home after a brief illness. 
• Peter Beck:’The city has lost a taonga’ 

The Diocese of Christchurch is grieving over the death of the Dean of Christchurch, the Very Rev Lynda Patterson.

Lynda died at home of natural causes after a recent illness. She was aged 40.

The Bishop of Christchurch, the Rt Rev Victoria Matthews, says Lynda spoke of the God she loved, in all she did and said.

“Lynda was highly respected across the Diocese and Province and we all benefitted from her extraordinary preaching and teaching.

“She was also a great pastor who brought both compassion and appropriate humour to every situation.” 

Bishop Victoria has asked for prayer for Lynda’s father and extended family in Northern Ireland. 

The Archbishops of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia have asked for prayer for the Cathedral family to remember Lynda, a priest who called others to prayer for the glory of God.

Taught at Oxford University

Lynda Patterson first visited Christchurch in 2002 while on sabbatical from teaching theology at Oxford University.

She had studied theology at Oxford and lectured there for 12 years. 

Her first year in New Zealand involved becoming “acclimatised to New Zealand culture”, learning Maori and studying for church ministry.

She was appointed Director of Theology House in Merivale in 2006, as well as assistant to Dean Peter Beck at the Cathedral.

She became Theologian-in-Residence in 2008, and took over the role of Dean last October

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Dean Lynda was to have presided and preached at a special Choral Evensong – with choristers from the Christchurch Cathedral – at Saint Michael and All Angels next Sunday evening, 27 July.

I, for one, will miss her sweet presence with us at that service. Lynda was a great friend of us at Saint Michael’s, being, herself, a radiant Anglo-Catholic and a supporter of our inclusive ethic in the Church – that embraces ALL God’s children within the Body of Christ.

Her sermon would have been worth hearing. As former Dean Peter Beck has said; Lynda was a formidable preacher, with an accompanying turn of wit that was attractively encouraging to all who were privileged to hear her homilies and sermons in our transitional Cathedral. A scholar of biblical and theological expertise (she taught theology at Oxford University before becoming a theological resource in our diocese – where she received her Holy Orders), Dean Lynda was also a bearer of the love of Christ in her deep and thoughtful treatment of individuals.

A great support to our Bishop Victoria, Lynda was one of the small team who travelled around the world seeking inspiration for the new Cathedral she hoped would be built in the Square. Many will miss her delightful Irish brogue, and the sense of fun she brought with it into her extensive ministry around the cathedral and the diocese. If she had survived, Lynda might well have joined the ranks of women ordained bishop in our Church.

After a short but active life in the service of Christ in the Gospel, Lynda has now gone to her well-earned reward. “Rest eternal grant to Lynda, Lord. May light perpetual shine upon her. May she now rest in peace, and rise one day with Christ in glory. Amen.”

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Sydney Influence in Australian General Synod

Conservative Anglicans have women priests in their sights

Date
July 16, 2014 - Muriel Porter

The decision, by massive majorities in its General Synod, needs the approval of the British Parliament before it returns to General Synod in November for final endorsement. Observers do not foresee any problems, so it is now highly likely that one or more women will be consecrated bishops in England early next year. There are more than 1700 English women priests to choose from.

About time. The mother church of the worldwide Anglican Communion has been very slow off the mark in this regard. It is 25 years since the first woman bishop was appointed in the United States, and another 39 have followed, from New Zealand to Canada to Cuba and Swaziland.

And Australia, where there are now five women bishops. Dr Sarah Macneil, the first woman to be in charge of a diocese in this country, took up her role in Grafton NSW earlier this year.

Australian Anglicans need not be complacent, however. The stark reality is that if votes even for women priests were now required in the Anglican Church here, let alone for women bishops, it is highly likely they would not succeed.

That was the take home message from our own General Synod held earlier this month in Adelaide. Mercifully, votes for women were not on the agenda at that meeting.

Over the 22 years since women priests were approved in Australia, the dominance of the conservative Diocese of Sydney has grown exponentially. And it has become even more conservative.

Ironically, when the women priests’ legislation passed the Australian General Synod in 1992, it was widely expected that although Sydney Diocese had opposed the change vociferously, effectively delaying the move for many years, it would change its mind within a decade or so.

Not so. Its opposition has become so entrenched that it is now virtually an article of faith for its leaders.

Their opposition is based on a claim that the Bible requires women to submit to their husbands in marriage and to male leaders in the church. Therefore, they cannot be leaders in mixed congregations of men and women.

Needless to say, this interpretation of the Bible is strongly rejected by those who believe to the contrary – that the full equality of women is actually mandated by Scripture.

Over the last two decades, Sydney Diocese – particularly under its former archbishop, Peter Jensen, who retired last year – has extended its reach into other parts of Australia.

This became obvious in Adelaide a couple of weeks ago. Although it was on the surface a civilised, good-humoured meeting, the changing dynamics of the national church were clear when votes were tallied for the General Synod’s standing committee.

In marked contrast to recent years, not a single woman priest was elected to that body. Eight of the nine male clergy elected were either from Sydney or have had Sydney connections. All of them could be described as theologically conservative.

Capable women clergy candidates from Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane lost out.

When the results were read out, there was consternation among liberals on the synod floor. How had this happened, particularly when lay synod voters had returned a reasonable complement of liberal laywomen from around the country to the same body?

The jury is still out, but the most likely scenario is that around Australia now, the number of conservative clergy either directly from Sydney Diocese or with Sydney sympathies has grown apace in a number of dioceses. Sydney has been very effective at spreading its tentacles.

In turn, these missionaries have been elected as General Synod representatives in place of the more liberal and often Anglo-Catholic clergy who were once there.

Add to them the fact that Sydney Diocese now has more than double the number of General Synod representatives of the next largest diocese, Melbourne – 66 to 32 – and the writing is on the wall.

One bishop commented privately that, within a decade, theologically liberal Anglicans will be, as he put it, “gone” from the national leadership.

But it is now clear that legislation for women priests would not have been passed even in Adelaide this month. It is as well it was passed back in 1992, when it was difficult enough. It barely reached the requisite two-thirds majorities then in the face of the conservative opposition.

So could we see the unthinkable happen in this country, the legislation for women priests repealed? It happened in the Presbyterian Church. Could it happen here, even though there are now close to 500 women priests in Australia? It is believed some conservatives have a repeal in their sights.

The only comfort is that, even if General Synod repealed it, repeal would also be necessary in any of the 19 dioceses with women priests if they wanted to stop ordaining them. Surely the laity, who have received women clergy so well, would not allow this to happen.

Is it likely that any diocese would go down this path? Please God, no, but in the current climate, the possibility cannot be dismissed.

Dr Muriel Porter is a Melbourne General Synod representative and a member of its Standing Committee.

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This article, by Muriel Porter in the Brisbane Times newspaper, warns Australian Anglicans that the emerging influence of Sydney conservative evangelicalism is now being felt in the composition of the membership of the Australian Provincial General Synod, as quoted here:

“Over the last two decades, Sydney Diocese – particularly under its former archbishop, Peter Jensen, who retired last year – has extended its reach into other parts of Australia.

This became obvious in Adelaide a couple of weeks ago. Although it was on the surface a civilised, good-humoured meeting, the changing dynamics of the national church were clear when votes were tallied for the General Synod’s standing committee.

In marked contrast to recent years, not a single woman priest was elected to that body. Eight of the nine male clergy elected were either from Sydney or have had Sydney connections. All of them could be described as theologically conservative.

Capable women clergy candidates from Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane lost out.”

The influence of the Sydney metropolitan Anglican community – which is largely fundamentalist in its stance on issues of gender and sexuality – is obviously being experienced in the important area of Australia-wide representation at the governance level in the Provincial Anglican Church.

Ms. Porter’s comment on the latest coup for those in the Church who would extend patriarchal domination in the ministry of the Church, shows the trend that has affected the latest General Synod elections from the floor of the Synod:

“The jury is still out, but the most likely scenario is that around Australia now, the number of conservative clergy either directly from Sydney Diocese or with Sydney sympathies has grown apace in a number of dioceses. Sydney has been very effective at spreading its tentacles.

In turn, these missionaries have been elected as General Synod representatives in place of the more liberal and often Anglo-Catholic clergy who were once there. Add to them the fact that Sydney Diocese now has more than double the number of General Synod representatives of the next largest diocese, Melbourne – 66 to 32 – and the writing is on the wall.”

Reflecting on the last sentence of this section of the report; one may wonder why the Sydney Diocese has twice as many representatives on General Synod than Melbourne – the next largest diocese in the Australian Anglican Church.?

Does this progression really mean that, within the next decade, the whole of the Australian Anglican Church will be misogynistic and homophobic in character? Such a state of things would certainly line up our next door neighbours with the provenance of the GAFCON Churches that seek to become separate from the world-wide Anglican Communion with a ‘sola-scriptura’ agenda that is not particularly Anglican..

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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R.C. ‘Tablet’ Article on C.of E, General Synod

Women bishops obstacle on the path to unity
14 July 2014 18:29 by Ruth GledhillLiz Dodd

The Church of England’s decision to consecrate women as bishops marked a “difficult moment” that will “sadly” harm relations with the Catholic Church, the archbishop responsible for ecumenism has warned.

Speaking for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Archbishop Bernard Longley said today that the end goal of dialogue between the two Churches remained “full visible ecclesial communion” that “embraces full communion in the episcopal office”.

“The decision of the Church of England to admit women to the episcopate therefore sadly places a further obstacle on the path to this unity between us,” he added.

“At this difficult moment we affirm again the significant ecumenical progress which has been made in the decades since the Second Vatican Council and the development of firm and lasting friendships between our communities. We rejoice in these bonds of affection and will do all we can to strengthen them and seek together to witness to the Gospel in our society,” he said.

However he said the bishops “note and appreciate” the pastoral provision made within the legislation for “those members of the Church of England who continue to hold to the historic understanding of the episcopate shared by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches”.

The editor of the Vatican’s semi-official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, Giovanni Maria Vian, who is also a historian, said the vote will have “an extremely negative impact” on the path to ecumenical unity.

He said: “It’s a decision that complicates the ecumenical path. The problem is not only with Rome but also with Orthodox Churches, and that the Anglican Church is itself divided on the issue.”

He said that the Anglicans in the southern half of the globe, who are now the majority, are largely opposed to female bishops.

“It’s a problem for the Anglican Communion, which will now have even more internal divisions. But this decision also complicates the ecumenical movement towards the ancient Eastern Churches and the Orthodox Churches.”

“The ‘yes’ to women bishops is a step that does not facilitate the unity of doctrine.”

“To keep the hope of unity alive, spiritual ecumenism and the daily friendship between Christians of different denominations will have to grow and overcome the theological divisions.”

“We need however to clarify some key points. This is a serious decision that is likely to have an extremely negative impact on the route towards the unity of all Christians.”

Cheers and whoops of joy erupted at General Synod, both inside and outside the chamber at York University after an overwhelming majority of bishops and clergy voted to ordain women bishops.

Of the bishops, 37 voted in favour, two against and one abstained. Of the clergy, 162 voted in favour, 25 against and four abstained. The opposition was strongest in the House of Laity, responsible for defeating the measure by six votes in November 2012, where 45 voted against, 152 in favour and five abstained. A two-thirds majority was needed in each of the three houses of the synod.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, whose new style of leadership played a significant role in resolving the deadlock over women, said: “To pass this legislation is to commit ourselves to an adventure in faith and hope.”

Its success, he said, would require “integrity and courage.” Speeches given on the floor had been costly, painful and hopeful, yet it had not been culture versus theology, but genuine theological argument. “Reimagining and spiritual growth are inextricably entwined if we are to demonstrate the reality of Jesus and serve the common good,” he said.

Crucial to it all was the independent process to hold everyone to account for the promises they make to each other. Advocating “the flourishing in the Church of all those who disagree,” he added: “If I did not think that was likely, I could not support this legislation.” Even if in the past the Church had been overwhelmed by the tortuous path it had taken, it must not be daunted by what lies ahead of it now. “You do not chuck out family even when you disagree.”

Revd Jennifer Tomlinson, of Chelmsford, said: “If we say yes, our ministry will be even more biblical, as we show the world that in Christ, there is neither male nor female.”

Susannah Leafe, of Truro, said her experience of “facilitated talks” she had been told it was “ridiculous” to expect the concerns of conservative evangelicals into account because they were “wrong”. The outcome was that the “majority” ended up telling the “minority” what was good for them. “We are going to need a change in culture. We are going to need a respect of conscience and conviction … because there’s a world out there that needs to hear the real Gospel.”

Dr Philip Giddings, chairman of the House of Laity, said a better way had been found than November 2012, when the last package failed by six votes, but the package still did not meet the needs of everyone in the Church. He said: “The key for me is that this package is adequate.”

This was because of the new House of Bishops’ guidelines, which bishops and clergy will be disciplined over if they fail to adhere to and which pledge proper oversight for those opposed to women bishops, as well as providing an independent reviewer to act as an ombudsman in disputes.

For many, he said, the new package still did not give the level of protection that Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics were asking for. But in a significant step, given the respect in which he is held by traditionalists and Evangelicals, he said he would now vote for the legislation in spite of his reservations. He had been expected to vote against or abstain.

The Bishop of Rochester, James Langstaff, admitted that because this was the Church of England, the nation, including parliament and media, was taking “a keen interest” in what the General Synod said and did, along with other churches and the wider Anglican Communion. “But, while we must be aware of those others, we are here today to do what we believe under God to be right.”

He urged the synod to weigh “carefully” the consequences for morale and the Church’s witness to the nation were the legislation to fail once again. The synod would be seen as “frustrating” the view of the wider church.

The Rev David Houlding, a leading Anglo-Catholic, said: “We have to learn to trust and go on trusting no matter how much it costs.” There will be an ecumenical price to pay with the Church’s Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters, he warned, but the dialogue will continue. “We are proceeding without Catholic consent. Nonetheless we must not lose sight of the aspiration set before us in the great chorus of the Christian hymn, One church one faith, one Lord. To that end we must continue to work.”

Michael Perham, the Bishop of Gloucester, said: “It is the whole church that has been disabled by the arguments strife and discord among us as we have struggled to resolve this issue… I want us all to flourish all contributing distinctively to the overall life of the Church.” Evangelicals can stop falling out, Anglo-Catholics can recover a unity they have lost. “If we can let God make it, today can be a day when the Church flourishes afresh and those who have been divided can once again be friends.”

Yesterday synod voted to make less mention of the devil during baptisms after he was deemed too much of a “cartoon-like character” and expelled from a new text.

Meeting in York, the General Synod on Sunday gave initial approval to new texts, which will not replace existing rites but merely exist alongside them, to go forward for revision.

Instead of asking parents and godparents to “reject the devil and all rebellion against God”, the service asks them to “reject evil”.

The Bishop of Sodor and Man, Robert Paterson, told the synod that feedback from families who had taken part in baptisms suggested they remembered the symbols and actions more than the words used.

“For many people, the devil has been turned into a cartoon-like character of no particular malevolence.

“The problem is helping people with little doctrinal appreciation to understand what we mean by affirming that the devil is a defeated power.” He said the words had been changed in order to “encapsulate what we mean by a broken and restored relationship with God.”

A report for the Church’s Liturgical Commission said that clergy frequently found themselves conducting baptisms for ‘un-churched’ families for whom the existing wording “can seem complex and inaccessible”.

Meanwhile synod also approved a measure to allow clergy to “dress down” and exchange the robes and other vestments worn at Morning and Evening Prayer and Holy Communion for more casual clothing.

Already, many clergy, especially Evangelicals and some liberals, eschew clerical collars and other more formal clerical outfits for plain trousers and shirts, with or without ties, especially at non-Eucharistic services.

But technically they are currently in breach of canon law, which currently prescribes a surplice or alp with scarf or stole at Holy Communion, morning and evening prayer.

Revd Christopher Hobbs, from the London Diocese, whose private member’s motion calling for draft legislation to be drawn up was approved by the synod, insisted it was not a “charter for shell suits, or jaffa cakes and Coke”.

He said he was merely suggesting that where a bishop and church council agreed, robes need not be worn, such as a “fresh expression” of church in a school or café, a small, intimate meeting on a stifling summer night, or because the cleric feels robes are a barrier in communicating the Gospel.

But a female chaplain at York University, Dr Rowan Williams, warned that young people attach a “huge amount of meaning” to what they wear. “If religious vestments are a barrier to mission, we are wearing them wrongly,” she said. “We don’t need to get rid of them, we need to consider what the symbols are.”

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, cautioned: “The canon is already very, very permissive. So when you are amending it from mandatory to occasional, look carefully at what it is you are amending.”

At the opening of the synod meeting, Church of England leaders drew on Catholic doctrines in an attempt to frame a neighbourly discourse of love and respect in advance of the crucial final vote on women bishops on Monday.

The Archbishop of York John Sentamu invited the leading US Evangelical Jim Wallis, a spiritual adviser to US President Barack Obama, to address synod members and then preach on the “Uncommon Good”. Wallis, whose wife Joy Carroll is a former member of the synod and was among the first women to be ordained priest, defined the concept of the common good as “all responsible for all”.

Mr Wallis in particular praised Pope Francis, who he said had transformed the conversation with young people, not by trying to be superman, but simply by being “vicar of Christ” and doing and saying what people think Christians are supposed to do and say.

Citing St John Chrysostom, he said the most perfect definition of being a Christian was doing the common good, because that was what loving your neighbour consisted of. Wallis contrasted this with the “dysfunctional” political climate in Washington. He criticised modern politics and markets. “Don’t trust politics or the market, which are riddled with sin,” he said, and warned that the power of sin must not be under-estimated.

He said the theology of the church he grew up in was in effect “save a few people from hell and judge all the others”.

“Loving our neighbour is what will restore our credibility as a Church.” Otherwise the next generation will simply move on from religion. “Religion makes a big mistake when its primary posture is to protect itself and its own interests. God is personal but never private.” The privatisation of faith had led to people walking away, he said.

Before preaching at the synod Eucharist at York Minister, Mr Wallis spent the afternoon and evening addressing and taking part in workshops with members of the synod, on the eve of the all-important vote on women bishops.

“The common good has become quite uncommon. That’s a tremendous problem and, for us, a great opportunity,” he said. “Our life together can be better. Ours is such a shallow and selfish age and we are in need of conversion.”

He praised the Church of England for the amount of work it is doing on the subject.

He said the largest growing affiliation in the US is now “none”.

“I call them the nones. I love the nones. I love the other nuns too.” Most of the nones believe in God. “They just don’t want to affiliate with religion because of what we have or have not done.”

This presented an opportunity to shake up public life as well as for evangelisation. “Because what they are attracted to are those who are doing something to change their communities.”

Although it was not on the agenda, discussions outside the official chamber at York were dominated by the subject of assisted dying after a surprise intervention by a former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton, who wrote in yesterday’s Daily Mail that he had changed his mind on the issue. Lord Carey will now back Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill on its Second Reading in the House of Lords this week. At the same time, Archbishop Welby wrote in The Times of why he could never support assisted dying and believes the Bill is “mistaken and dangerous”.

The Church of England, which has consistently opposed the Bill and called for the status quo to be maintained, shifted its stance in response. The Bishop of Carlisle, James Newcome, called for a Royal Commission which he said would allow the “important issue” to be discussed at length. He said the bill should be withdrawn to allow the inquiry to take place. Lord Falconer rejected his plea.

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Ruth Gledhill, a well-known Anglican Religious Correspondent, has cooperated with Liz Dodds in this ‘Tablet’ Report of the Church of England General Synod held during the past week. 

The ‘Tablet’ is the premier Roman Catholic newspaper in the U.K., whose articles generally reflect a pretty balanced view of religious affairs in the U.K. and around the world, and this article gives an even broader view than the Anglican ‘Church Times’ of the inter-faith impact of the recent decision of the General Synod of the C.of E. to go ahead with the ordination of Women Bishops in the national Church.

Predictably, as the Roman Catholic Church has never authorised the ministry of women as either priests or bishops,  the official R.C. response to this action of the General Synod has been fairly negative, except that those responding on behalf of the Church have expressed the hope that – despite the obvious growing gap between the doctrine of our two Churches – this will not derail the current work of the ARCIC partners towards the eventual achievement of organic unity.

In view of the fact that Pope Francis himself has expressed the opinion that the Roman Catholic Church must do more to encourage  women into partnership in the Church – even though current R.C. doctrine does not allow for women’s ordination – one may wonder how long this patriarchal situation will remain to block the possibility of a deeper union with both the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches.

When all is said and done – on this issue of women’s ministry – it would seem that the Church of England has now come to a decision in line with most Anglican Churches of the West, that the image and likeness of God in both women and men should inform and affect issues of the joint responsibility for leadership and sacerdotal ministry. In line with the insistence of the Apostle Paul that, “In Christ, there is neither male nor female”.

On others issues tackled by the General Synod this week; perhaps the most important is that of its reaction to the plan of the British Government to debate the problem of assisted death – in a situation where a person is deemed to be suffering from a terminal illness and wishes to be allowed to die. While most religious bodies – including the leadership of the Church of England – seem opposed to the proposed legislation; there are people, like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and former Archbishop George Carey, who advocate a properly supervised process that would allow for medical intervention that would release a person from unbearable suffering.

The plan to liberalise regulations for clergy dress in certain ministerial situations would appear to have advocates, who argue for a less restrictive code of dress for non-Eucharistic occasions, where a less formal attire for the officiating clergy might prove more encouraging to those being ministered to. Arguments against are based on the perceived need for clergy to be recognisable in their dress, in order to indicate the spiritual significance of the ministry they perform – especially at the Eucharist. This latter would certainly be my own thought on the subject.

All in all, this would seem to be a very good summary of what went on the the General Synod.

(See also: http://religiondispatches.org/female-bishops-in-church-of-england-is-a-good-step-but-its-just-a-step/  )

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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‘Chaos Rhetoric’ – Tool of the Religious Right in the U.S.

 

HOW CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN WOMEN CAME TO CLAIM “TRUE” FEMINISM

 
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Title:Righteous Rhetoric: Sex, Speech, and the Politics of Concerned Women for America
Author:Leslie Dorrough Smith
Publisher:Oxford University Press
Release Date:April, 2014

Concerned Women for America (CWA) was founded in 1979 by Beverly LaHaye, wife of conservative activist—and later Left Behind co-author—Tim LaHaye. Irritated by the ascendance of Betty Friedan’s National Organization for Women (NOW), LaHaye founded CWA to represent traditionalist women who balked at feminist “liberation.” Since its inception, the group has worked to bring “biblical values” to bear on the American political process, with special attention to issues of sex and gender. Over the past three decades, CWA has become a powerful political force, claiming over half a million members.

Leslie Dorrough Smith is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Avila University in Kansas City, Missouri. Her book, Righteous Rhetoric: Sex, Speech, and the Politics of Concerned Women for America, published this spring by Oxford University Press, provides the first full-length analysis of CWA rhetoric. Smith situates CWA within a long tradition of American political discourse concerning sex and gender, explaining how the group’s public arguments are calibrated to best persuade their audiences.

RD’s Eric C. Miller talked with Smith about her project.

What prompted your interest in the rhetoric of American conservative Protestants (ACP), and what drew you to Concerned Women for America (CWA) in particular?

As with many scholars, I suspect, my interest was at least partly autobiographical. I grew up in an environment steeped in conservative Protestant thought, although much of my exposure to these ideas wasn’t overtly tied to politics. When I began to study religion formally and saw those strong political ties at work, I wanted to better understand the dynamics causing large numbers of people to adopt the interests of CWA and other Christian Right groups even when those ideas don’t necessarily have clear factual backing.

I felt that a thoroughgoing treatment of how public persuasion and belief formation happens had been mostly ignored in scholarship, as most scholars simply see finite groups with finite beliefs, rather than asking critical questions about how people develop sympathies for certain concepts in the first place. That was where my interest in rhetoric really began.

I thought that the best way to dissect the persuasive power of the Christian Right was to choose a particularly influential group that was not only representative of the larger movement, but one that held formidable influence over the sex and gender issues that are so central to almost every other platform that the movement supports. CWA was a natural choice: it has a noteworthy presence on conservative and other media outlets; it maintains a strong grassroots base; and, having been in existence for several decades, it has longevity on its side.

In addition, its identity as a women’s group has been a very critical part of how it promotes its authority to speak on sex and gender issues. Historically, women have been both the most vocal proponents and opponents of the liberalization of sex, gender, and reproduction laws. If we take seriously that gender – as just one of many forms of social control – is an important litmus test to gauge the power relationships in a culture, then it makes sense to focus on a group that amplifies its gendered identity as a major aspect of its authority.

Much of the book is focused on what you call “chaos rhetoric,” using CWA as a case study. What is chaos rhetoric, and how does it work?

Chaos rhetoric is my term for a type of speech that invokes widespread public appeal through its deployment of specific symbols designed to create a heightened sense of social chaos and threat (rather than the order and security that scholars often tout when describing the Christian Right).

By carefully manufacturing these negative emotions, the group is in a prime position to offer its own political platforms as the resolution to the threats that they construct. One could simply call chaos rhetoric a fear tactic, but I thought this was too simplistic, since I was more interested in looking at how, when, and under what circumstances CWA chose to portray certain things as chaotic or fearful rather than presuming that those emotions were self-evident or natural. In other words, what is deemed frightening or threatening at one moment is often a non-event several years, or even months, later – it all depends on how the political and cultural winds are blowing.

Yet chaos rhetoric is a technique not only of persuasion, but also of masquerade. In the book I detail how chaos rhetoric serves four critical functions, two of which – creating urgency and inciting activism – are fairly predictable persuasive techniques. But CWA’s chaos rhetoric also performs the dual functions of defensive argumentation and rationale-deflection, which are processes by which attention is shifted away from CWA and its perhaps less popular rationales for advocacy and onto more emotion-evoking platforms.

These are both really effective ways for the group to change more imperceptibly simply by convincing the audience to concentrate elsewhere.

For example, CWA has frequently attempted to portray homosexuality as a public health threat, which it has done through studies that show things like an elevated risk for domestic violence among gay couples, or that pinpoint elevated suicide rates among gay teens. Rather than describe the more subjective discomfort that characterize its members’ homophobia, or talk about theologies of homophobia (neither of which is a particularly persuasive tactic if the point is to attract a diverse audience), CWA persuades best by portraying homosexuality as a threat to something that virtually everyone values—their health.

Deflecting the rationale from religious particulars or gut feelings onto a more “legitimate” concern helps to make the message sound relevant; in all honesty, if CWA were really concerned with public health issues, then they’d be discussing more than just the health risks associated with homosexuality. Moreover, focusing attention on its opponents (but less on itself) allows CWA to shift its own agendas more imperceptibly.

As the message about gay rights as a health threat grows stale, loses public appeal, or is otherwise debunked, it is abandoned for a new one that accomplishes a similar effect. But once the similar effect is no longer possible to maintain, the group will be pushed to rework its stance on homosexuality, even if incrementally, so as to preserve its public relevancy. In this case, that might mean the shift from seeing homosexual identity as a sin to regarding the practice of homosexuality as a sin – that nuance, however slight, provides some wiggle room that gives the group material to work with in crafting new rhetoric.

What this shows, then, is that the real persuasive force of chaos rhetoric lies in knowing how to repeatedly rework an opponent’s identity so that they remain perpetually threatening, and crafting one’s own rationale so that it always seems relevant.

You mention that other scholars have associated conservative Protestant speech with “order and security.” But you see it as very flexible and adaptable.

Yes – and here I think that scholars have tended to confuse these groups’ self-perceptions and public portrayals with the sociological dynamics that are actually sustaining them.  While I think it’s true that Christian Right groups are attractive to the public because they provide the sense of a high degree of order and stability in times of change (which is something that many scholars argue), I think that there’s more going on under the surface that’s quite pliable and dynamic.

As the previous discussion on chaos rhetoric shows, I’m interested in how CWA uses a series of rhetorical techniques that permits them to continuously shift their platforms as is politically expedient, leaving little that is actually stable about them over time, even as they continue to promote the eternality of their claims. Many have also noted this trend, and usually they describe these changes as smaller or peripheral in light of a rigidly maintained core. Others have simply called it hypocrisy.

Neither one of these explanations was satisfying to me, however, as they did not seem to acknowledge the gravity of the shifts that are often taking place, nor the normalcy (and necessity) of this practice to maintain social relevancy and thereby incite public persuasion. For instance, in the 1960s and 70s, CWA’s founder, Beverly LaHaye, wrote extensively about the dangers of working motherhood, for she saw it as a feminist ploy to literally destroy families and create gender-free societies run by socialist governments.

But as working motherhood became much more common and accepted, the organization now discusses working motherhood as a positive thing so long as one finds a balance between personal and professional commitments. Rather than see this as a small tweak or minor issue, this is actually a change of great magnitude, for it involves CWA having to publicly re-work major facets of its own philosophy on gender in ways that directly interrogate some of its older, most basic, claims. The point is that all groups that seek to remain persuasive must also remain relevant, and this is an especial challenge for groups that have a lot of social capital built up in the appearance that they hold strong, eternal platforms.

CWA uses that flexibility to infiltrate and co-opt other important symbols, to suggest that they represent the true family, the true America – even the true feminism.

CWA’s ability to deploy strong, emotional symbols in such a way that they can transform themselves into whatever image is powerful at the moment is, in my mind, the group’s greatest distinction.

In particular, though, its claim to the term “feminism” was one of the more surprising elements of my research, and it really exhibits the pliability and dynamism that I mentioned above. As CWA tells the story, the organization first began as a campaign against liberal feminism, and for most of its history, it has portrayed feminism as destructive and immoral. Despite this, over the past few years CWA has begun to describe itself as the embodiment of “true,” or conservative, feminism. It does this by locating itself within a long lineage of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Christian female activist groups organized to clean up sin in American culture, calling these women the “original” feminists.

The likely reason for this switch is that it’s attempting to appeal to a younger crowd that takes many of the social advances of 1960s-70s feminism for granted. Not surprisingly, over the past several years the organization has started to target its rhetoric at younger women who don’t necessarily find that term objectionable. In other words, it’s a smart marketing move.

Of course, this is frustrating for those of us who identify as feminists, but as I’ve mentioned earlier, using your opponent’s symbols for your own gain is a really normal tactic that all groups perform, liberal advocacy groups included. So if we’re looking for a source of distinction that sets CWA or the Christian Right apart from other social movements, we won’t find it here.

You offer many examples of CWA speakers and writers being tricky or manipulative in their arguments, but ultimately you conclude that they aren’t really different from other advocacy groups in this respect.

I wouldn’t use the words “tricky” or “manipulative,” because those words imply that there’s a certain moral ineptness inherent in chaos rhetoric. What I’d claim, rather, is what I said earlier: most of us tolerate chaos rhetoric quite well when it’s being used by a group that we like. In other words, various methods of persuasion (in this case, chaos rhetoric) are called “tricky” or “manipulative” only when a group that we don’t favor shows up to the party.

And that, really, is much of the point of the book, wherein I grapple with whether chaos rhetoric is a unique practice. I demonstrate that it’s not, as I show how many other, seemingly different, groups (including the very scholars who study the Christian Right) do the very same thing: they use chaos rhetoric to portray their own ideological opponents as a force that violates everything that is good, noble, productive, etc. so that they can represent their own perspectives as more logical or mainstream.

It may seem on the surface that scholars would be very unlikely to use chaos rhetoric, since they are supposed to maintain a degree of scholarly objectivity that others don’t employ. What I try to show is that this is not the case at all, for scholars have their own agendas that they use to formulate the very categories that make their analyses possible. Sometimes this happens in more overt ways, as when one finds a statement at the end of a book on the Christian Right wherein the scholar reassures the reader that, while his/her analysis has been objective, the Christian Right should nevertheless be feared and opposed, for it represents a force antithetical to true democracy, liberty, and diversity. Whether or not one concludes that this is accurate is beside the point, for this is still chaos rhetoric at work.

To be very clear, this is not my statement in support of CWA, the Christian Right, and/or conservative politics. It is also not a statement on the ethics of chaos rhetoric. My point is simply that chaos rhetoric is not only very effective, but it is also ubiquitous. Almost everyone who wants to persuade will end up using it at some point or another, and this reality pushes an important question: if chaos rhetoric is a central tool in garnering political power, and if it is absolutely everywhere, then what really sets apart Christian Right groups from others? While I believe that there are some elements of distinction held by the Christian Right, on the whole, I think that they’re rather ordinary. What is extraordinary about them is their ability to easily manipulate so many symbols at one time in a way that most other groups can’t.

Do you think Christian advocates should be held to higher standards of honesty than other political organizations, if only because they claim Christian values?

This question presupposes that chaos rhetoric represents something inherently dishonest. Obviously, though, it’s possible for a strong message to be deemed accurate just as much as it is for it to be deemed inaccurate. I’m also wondering why we presume that Christians have a greater moral obligation than any other group. This, to me, is one way that American society grants authority to religious groups in such a way that they don’t even have to work for it: we equate religiosity with morality.

While I realize that Christian (and other religious) groups often openly tout their moral prowess, I tend to see this as a form of social advertising – a tactic to reinforce their authority – rather than a statement of actual difference.

It would be nice to know that what we hear from public groups are always accurate renderings of factual events, but since reality is often muddy, subjective, and nuanced, this implodes the idea that there’s a clear “moral” platform on which we all can agree. There’s also the basic sociological fact that Christians exist in culture, and so as cultural players, engage in cultural acts. Producing chaos rhetoric is a very normal cultural act because it’s an effective way to gain authority and support, which is necessary for any social group to survive. Expecting groups to exist outside of the very culture on which they rely to survive is asking them to perform cultural suicide.

So do I wish it were different? Certainly. But I’m not sure that my wish is practical, given the ways that society works.

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Author Leslie D. Smith, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Avila University in Kansas City, Missouri, writes of what she calls ‘Chaos Rhetoric’. Her book, Righteous Rhetoric: Sex, Speech, and the Politics of Concerned Women for America.

This is a most interesting theory, of how conservative women in America have used the threat of social chaos to fight the cause of liberality within the church and society of North America. Their thesis has been dependent, largely, on scaring people to think that tolerance of homosexuality, for instance, is the road to social upheaval and the breakdown of the nation. Her book sounds as though it will challenge many fundamentalistic understandings of biblical certainty on issues of importance in our world of today. Must get a copy!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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