Women as bishops: Close, but no cigar (yet)
Charles Read, Vice-Chair of WATCH, writes: “Close, but no cigar (yet)”.
…In the Church in Wales debate, the assistant bishop of Llandaff, David Wilbourne, reminded people of how he had been John Habgood’s chaplain when the latter, as Archbishop of York, had drafted the Act of Synod. Bishop Wilbourne told the Welsh Governing Body that the first flying bishops had deliberately been chosen from men nearing retirement because the Act of Synod was meant to be a transitional arrangement. As he said, “Yet here we are 20 years later.”
The Welsh church will make provision for those opposed to women bishops by means of a Code of Practice, not by enacting legislation. This has been where the Church of England has got into a tangle. The July General Synod asked for simple legislation to create women bishops precisely because making provision in law for opponents had proved unworkable and was leading to women bishops being second class bishops. If Wales and Ireland can do it, so can England.
In Wales and Ireland, the sky has not fallen in by going about it this way. Perhaps developments in these countries will give us courage to press on with legislation that does not discriminate. Meanwhile, here’s a sobering thought:
It is May 2014 and Kenny has moved from Dunboyne to live in Manchester. He is exploring a call to ordination but has only just been confirmed by bishop Pat – one of her first. However, the English DDO tells him that the Church of England does not recognise bishop Pat’s confirmation as valid because she is a woman. He needs to be confirmed again.
Can we get our house in order on matters like this? It is only going to get worse now – we have a female bishop on our doorstep and we don’t recognise her ministry. If we don’t move ahead quickly, then it won’t be Kenny the ordinand, it will be Sally and Simon the Irish priests, ordained by bishop Pat, who cannot minister in England because we don’t recognise their orders as valid – not because of them but because of her – or more specifically her gender. Theology of taint anyone? Or is it just the Church of England’s inability to welcome the ministry of ordained women – even women who are bishops. Our neighbours show us a better way. Let us walk in it.
Charles Read is a Vice-Chair of WATCH and member of General Synod
Posted by Simon Sarmiento – ‘Thinking Anglicans’ on Tuesday, 24 September 2013
This article, from Charles Read, Vice-Chair of WATCH, is timely and important – as a reminder of the fact that, when the Act of Synod that provided for Alternative Episcopal Oversight catering for protesters against women’s ministry in the Church of England was brought into being twenty years ago, the provision was only meant as an interim measure. When PEVs were first appointed, at near retirement age, it was thought that they might not be replaced because – by that time – woman would be fully accepted by everyone in the Church as valid clergy.
Here we are, after twenty years, and still there is a minority in the Church who are demanding the same discriminatory practice – which – it had been calculated, would be no longer necessary or desirable, in the interests of collegiality in the House of Bishops, and as proof of the Church of England’s ability to accommodate the ministry of women on the same basis as that of men.
After the Church in Wales’ and the Church of Ireland’s movement towards the Ordination of Women as Bishops in their Churches – without prejudice, but with the expectation of a voluntary ‘Code of Practice – meant to allow a woman bishop to consider provision of alternative arrangements for dissenters in her diocese – it seems that the Church of England would need to follow suit – if it is not to lag behind on the issue of gender equality in the leadership of the national Church, and in communion with other Provinces of the Anglican Communion that already fully accepts ordained women.
WATCH is waiting, as well as watching, for justice on this issue!
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand