Forward in Faith responds to House of Bishops on changes to draft legislation
Statement from Forward in Faith
May 23, 2012
Forward in Faith welcomes the amendments to the draft legislation on women bishops passed by the House of Bishops on Monday.
The first amendment secures the provision of bishops for traditional catholics and conservative evangelicals who are not simply male, but who share the theological convictions of those to whom they will minister. For traditional catholics, that means bishops ordained into the historic episcopate as we understand it. The draft Measure now recognises that our position is one of legitimate theological conviction for which the Church of England must provide. This principle will be enshrined in law.
The second amendment helpfully clarifies that the charism of episcopal ministry derives from the fact of a bishop’s ordination, and is not by delegation from another bishop.
It was disappointing that the amendment which would have implemented co-ordinate jurisdiction was not passed. The draft Measure stills fails, therefore, to address questions of jurisdiction and authority in the way we need.
Thanks to Simon Sarmiento, of ‘Thinking Anglicans’ for this report from the oddly-named ‘Forward in Faith’ group of the Church of England. Described by their more liberal colleagues in the C. of E. as ‘Backward in Despair’, this esoteric group of both conservative Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics in the U.K. is desperate to prevent the possibility of having to be in a position of surrendering to the ministry of Women – as either priests or bishops in the Church of England.
Having failed to prevent the ordination of Women as priests, they are now desperate not to have to have their ‘faith’ contaminated by any exposure to the authority of a Woman Bishop – in the mistaken belief that there are no grounds for the ecclesial empowerment of women in the more authoritative role of episcopal oversight. They will do almost anything to avoid having any contact with a Woman in sacerdotal ministry.
This seeming acceptance of the amendments made by the House of bishops to the Draft Measure for the Ordination of Women Bishops is obviously not as pleasing to them as it might have been – with the imposition of Alternative Episcopal Oversight that did not depend upon a Woman Diocesan Bishop‘s ‘power of delegation’.
However, they see the ‘writing on the wall’ – with the mind of the Church moving inexorably towards the Church of England’s eventual acceptance of Women in the Bishop’s role.
The amendments suggested by the House of Bishops are an obvious compromise. The use of the word ‘delegation’ – for a woman diocesan Bishop’s transfer of authority to a male Bishop untainted by any connection with the theological acceptance of women as Bishops – will become a matter of debate, around which the besieged F.i.F. members will be rallying until the next meeting of the Church of England General Synod.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand