The Archbishop of Canterbury, appearing before a parliamentary committee of the House of Lords, urges that, once women are consecrated as bishops – he is confident of their acceptance being voted by the General Synod – they should be fast-tracked to membership of the House. So real bishops – I mean male bishops – who have served in the episcopate for years will be sidelined by the incoming women.
Isn’t this what we used to call discrimination?
In 2010 the General Synod confirmed its determination to proceed to the consecration of women bishops. Disconcertingly, the resolution does not include any proposal to provide statutory provision for those who in conscience cannot accept women’s episcopacy. So the benign genius of Dr John Habgood, when Archbishop of York, which offered the notion of two integrities at the time when women priests were originally approved by the General Synod, has now been overthrown. The latest synodical resolution will also abolish the roles of the Provincial Episcopal Visitors – the so called flying bishops – created in 1993 to provide pastoral oversight for those conscientiously unable to accept the priesthood of women.
Thus, as John Broadhurst, former Bishop of Fulham, said on Radio Four when the inadequate synodical resolution passed: The Synod has lied to Parliament and it has lied to the Church.
We must understand clearly what the new draft measure amounts to. It is a plain denial that those unable to accept women priests or bishops have any integrity at all. Dr Habgood’s agreeable compromise has been arbitrarily done away with and now, by implication, there is only one integrity in the Church and it belongs exclusively to the supporters of women priests and bishops. But synodical approval for women priests was obtained in 1992 on the proviso that alternative pastoral arrangements be made for those opposed. It was this which ensured that women’s ordination became a reality, for it is very likely that many members of Synod would have rejected the innovation if the safeguard of the flying bishops, providing alternative pastoral oversight, had not been forthcoming.
Dr Williams should not count his chickens. It is still not too late to hope that this manifest injustice to conscientious dissenters from the consecration of women bishops will so stick in the craw of all but the most hardened feminist apparatchiks in the Synod that they will vote the measure down.