Janet Henderson Archdeacon of Richmond has written A Nettle the Church of England Can’t Seem to Grasp.
…For 18 years the Church of England has been trying out an approach that says, in effect, ‘both groups are right’. A lot of us thought we were doing this in the patient expectation that one or other group would eventually become less sustainable. How else are decisions made and people able to move forward? You pray, you argue the rationale, you try things out, you put it to the vote. In the Church of England, we seem now to be saying that however small the number of people who want to be protected from women priests becomes, we will continue to order the life of the church for their benefit and at the expense of all who want to see women in leadership.
Well, I can see that to pass legislation that is completely unacceptable to those who do not want women priests and bishops is a very hard decision to take (and not, at this point, one that is open to Synod) but let’s look at the cost of continuing with this ‘two integrities’ approach
- It seriously endangers the coherence of episcopacy in the Church of England. The bishops will be trying to move in two directions at once over a good number of issues to do with gender and the ordering of the church.
- It will cause arguments in parishes where there is a divergence of view about women’s ministry, particularly as the ‘supply’ (to use the bishops’ word) of clergy gets smaller.
- It makes for a national church that treats women as second class, something parts of the church have to be protected from. How proud of that can we be?
- It means that language about ‘taint’ and ‘the unsuitability of women having authority’ will continue to be a norm of church life. (As Desmond Tutu so famously pointed out, what you say about people in fact shapes the possibilities of your behaviour towards them.)
- It endorses the notion of different churches within the Church of England needing different types of theological leadership – will other grounds for being able to petition for a different bishop begin to emerge? This leads to chaos!
- Janet is speaking a lot of sense here. The rot in the Church of England began with the institution of ‘Flying Bishops‘ – those ephemeral creatures from outer-space that were somehow expected to appease those who did not believe that women could represent Christ at the altar -as though Jesus died for men only.
The serious dissidents have now fled to the Roman Ordinariate. Why carry on the idea of a two-tier episcopate any longer? It, in itself, is a flagrant breach of ‘catholic order’.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, N.Z.