Traditionalist Chichester diocese votes for women package

Madeleine Davies

by Madeleine Davies – ‘CHURCH TIMES’

Posted: 23 May 2014 @ 12:22

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Twenty years on: women priests gathered for a service in York Minster last Saturday, to mark 20 years of women’s priestly ministry

A SERVICE at Chichester Cathedral on Saturday to mark the 20th anniversary of women priests will help address a “legacy of hurt and some anger”, the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, said on Monday.

Dr Warner, a traditionalist, said: “In this diocese we are aware that some have been slow to receive the ministry of women priests as fully as they might have done. There is still a legacy of hurt and some anger.”

He asked for “healing, wisdom, and generosity”.

Chichester was one of two dioceses that voted against the draft women-bishops Measure put to the dioceses in 2011. On Saturday, the diocesan synod voted in favour of the new package to bring in women bishops, by 60 per cent in the House of Clergy and by 77 per cent in the House of Laity.

The Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Revd Richard Jackson, voted in favour, the Bishop of Horsham, the Rt Revd Mark Sowerby, abstained, and Dr Warner voted against.

On Monday, Dr Warner said: “We may disagree on some things, but that is not necessarily a cause for the mission of the Church to be at all compromised as we seek to communicate very good news indeed to the people of Sussex.” Celebrations to mark the 20-year anniversary are taking place across the country. On Saturday, the Bishop of Meath & Kildare, the Most Revd Patricia Storey, preached at a service at Manchester Cathedral.

“I still cannot quite get my head around being the first female Bishop in the UK and Ireland, or even, to be frank, being a bishop at all,” she said. “It is still something I have a chuckle about in the middle of the night.”

She warned against the “trap of generalising” about women’s particular gifts in ministry: “Women, just like men, are all different. We are who we are as people, and I am never sure how much that is gender-driven, and how much it is just our personalities and individual spiritual gifts. . . Women bring what men bring – compassion, leadership, wisdom, laughter, character – the strengths and weaknesses that make up who we are as people.”

On Tuesday, the Dean of York, the Very Revd Vivienne Faull, described the service on Saturday as “very much an inclusive occasion for people who are still on a journey on this issue”.

She highlighted childcare provision as a key challenge still facing women priests.

Forty dioceses have now voted in favour of the new draft women-bishops package that will go to the General Synod for final approval in July. On Thursday last week, London – which voted against the draft Measure in 2011 – voted in favour of the new package, by 70 per cent in both the houses of clergy and laity. The three bishops in attendance all voted in favour. The Bishops of London, Edmonton, and Fulham did not attend.

Fast-track plan. The House of Bishops will explore the possibility of fast-tracking the first women diocesan bishops into the House of Lords (News, 11 April).

A statement issued from the House on Tuesday, after a two-day meeting, said that, with political parties, it would consider “amending existing arrangements for the selection of Lords Spiritual in order that the first women diocesan Bishops will be able to become members of the Bishops’ Bench in the House of Lords more quickly than would otherwise be the case under current arrangements”.

On Wednesday, Baroness Berridge of the Vale of Catmose concurred. “A transitional arrangement to see some women join the benches is not sexist: it is correcting an injustice which is well overdue.”

The Vicar of St Mary’s, Great Ilford, the Revd Gareth Jones, said: “If the Church of England is to go ahead and allow for the ordination of women to the episcopate, then of course the same opportunities for those women (where appropriate) to sit in the Lords must be available. That ought to be welcomed without reservation.

“My contention is that those same people who have under the auspices of ‘gender equality’ supported the move of the Church of England to ordain women to the episcopate are now willingly (and blatantly) advocating gender discrimination when it comes to fast-tracking women bishops into the Lords.

“Surely we would want to say that no one should be fast-tracked or receive any kind of preferential treatment or preferment simply based on their gender? To suggest otherwise in a context outside of any ecclesiological argument about women and Holy Order is sexist.

“One might imagine the furore if the question on the table was about fast-tracking men.”


Despite his theological opposition to the Ordination of Women, the diocesan Bishop of Chichester, Dr. Martin Warner, presided at a service to commemorate on Saturday last  the first 20 years of Women’s Ordained Ministry in the Church of England. A clue to this extraordinary situation can be discerned in his statement made before the commemoration service:

“On Monday, Dr Warner said: “We may disagree on some things, but that is not necessarily a cause for the mission of the Church to be at all compromised as we seek to communicate very good news indeed to the people of Sussex.”

Surely this statement must be grounds for hope for the future of the Church of England that; by Bishop Warner’s agreement to preside at this Commemoration in his own cathedral – remembering that he was once the Warden of the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham, which still does not allow a woman to preside at the Eucharist on the premises – he is also officially recognizing the fact that the Church in which he is a bishop not only ordains women as priests but will also soon be ordaining one of them as a bishop, a proposal which he voted against in his own diocesan synod very recently.

This paradoxical situation – replicates that of the dilemma faced by the C. of E. in its resistance to Civil Partnerships and Same-Sex Marriage, while yet affirming Gay people as full members of the Church. In my own New Zealand Anglican Church – ACANZP – we are in a similar situation with regard to Same-Sex partnerships – affirming them but refusing an official Blessing by the Church to such arrangements. This is what one of my colleagues, on ‘Anglican Down Under’ refers to as a classical ‘Anglican Fudge’ .

It will be very interesting to see (a) whether the General Synod of the Church of England at its July Meeting will actually pass the Measure to Ordain Women Bishops, and (b), if it does, how it will manage the operation of what is called the ‘Two Integrities’. The result may give a clue as to how the C. of E. and our ACANZP will manage the ‘Two Integrities’ involved in Same-Sex Partnership issues that are looming in both Churches.

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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