Women bishops and the recognition of Orders

The recent decision of the Church in Wales to allow women to be consecrated as bishops, and the election of a woman bishop in the Church of Ireland have prompted an article, Women bishops and the recognition of Orders, by Will Adam, editor of the Ecclesiastical Law Journal, in Law and Religion UK about the implications for the Church of England.

… This is bound to bring up again the question of the recognition in a Church which does not permit the ordination of women as bishop of episcopal acts performed by a bishop who is a woman …

However, the consecration of a woman as a bishop in the Church of Ireland changes the situation. Deacons, priests and bishops of the Church of Ireland, Church in Wales and Scottish Episcopal Church are not considered as “overseas” clergy by the law applying to the Church of England. This is significant, because the permission of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York is not required for such ministers to be invited to exercise the ministry of their orders in England …

The article refers to this 2004 opinion from the Legal Advisory Commission of the Church of England: The Effect of Acts by women Bishops of Churches in Communion with the Church of England.

Kelvin Holdswoth writes about the same topic in Taint. He concludes with

What I’m interested in is that with respect of our current bishops in Scotland, all of them have either had a female co-consecrator present at their consecration, joined in consecrating someone with a female co-consecrator present or have been consecrated by someone who has had a female co-consecrator present at their own consecration.

What I wonder is whether those who apply the theology of taint believe that anyone at all (bishops, priests or deacons) now ordained in Scotland is legit.

Oh, and by the way an English bishop was present and joining in when this situation began. I was there – I saw it with my own eyes.

Where does this leave the Scottish Episcopal Church in relation to those who would deny the legitimacy of women to act as bishops? …

Do we, or do we not, remain in full communion with [all of] the Church of England?

Posted by Peter Owen, ‘Thinking Anglicans’ –
Wednesday 25 September 2013


If the upcoming General Synod of the Church of England fails to approve of legislation to Ordain Women Bishops, then the scenario described in this article will bring further confusion into the Anglican Communion – on the issue of mutual recognition of Episcopal Orders within the Provincial Churches.

As happened in the not-too-distant past: when the Presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church in the U.S., the Right Reverend Katharine Jefferts-Schori, was unable to wear her Bishop’s Mitre at a worship service in the Church of England; it would seem that a Woman Bishop from even Scotland, Ireland or Wales (Churches within the legal definition of associate Churches of the Church of England) would not be able to exercise episcopal ministry in England.

This silly state of affairs would surely need some resolution – certainly if the Primate of the Church of England were still to continue to exercise the privilege of ‘Primus-inter-pares’ status within the world-wide Anglican Communion.

It really now does seem that the Church of England will need to get its act together on the issue of Women Bishops. Otherwise, there may be a steady decrease in its influence among the other Churches of the Communion that have taken on board the need to recognise Women as half of the human race, with the same degree of dignity as the male of the species.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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