by Madeleine Davies – ‘CHURCH TIMES’
Posted: 04 Jul 2014 @ 12:19
DIOCESE OF BLACKBURN
Unprecedented: the Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Julian Henderson (centre) with the priests ordained at Blackburn Cathedral, on Saturday. He is the first Bishop of Blackburn to ordain women priests, and it was the first time that a woman priest has been ordained at Blackburn Cathedral. No priest has been ordained at the cathedral since the ordination of women priests began in 1994
THE pivotal votes of a small number of members of the General Synod who helped to defeat the women-bishops Measure in November 2012 have swung to the Yes camp.
The earlier Measure was lost by six votes in the House of Laity. Instrumental to the defeat were a handful of members who, despite being in favour of the consecration of women as bishops, voted against the Measure, prompted by a concern that it did not offer enough provision for those who were opposed on principle.
Five of these members told the Church Times this week that they now planned to vote in favour.
“The Measure that is before us this month . . . is a totally different animal,” Tom Sutcliffe (diocese of Southwark) said on Tuesday. “It makes suitable provision for most of those who don’t believe women can or should be bishops and priests. . . If the Measure now before us were to fail, I think it would be a total disaster.”
Keith Malcouronne (diocese of Guildford) concurred: “The focus of the new package has shifted. The dog’s breakfast of 43 diocesan schemes and an as-yet-unwritten Code of Practice that emerged from the legislative wringer in 2012 would not, in my judgement, have kept the whole Church of England together in healthy mutual respect and flourishing, which the current package now does.”
Mary Judkin (West Yorkshire & the Dales) said on Wednesday that the new Measure had secured “a much more of an honoured place” for those who could not accept women bishops. “I am quietly confident that it will go through.”
Two other Synod members, who asked not to be named, indicated that they, too, would vote in favour.
The news will be welcome to Synod managers, who have shown signs of nervousness about the vote on 14 July.
Although happier than before, traditionalists will vote against the new legislation on principle. On Tuesday, Prebendary David Houlding, a member of the Catholic Group, expressed his hope that the Measure would go through. But he said that he and other traditionalists would vote against it: “I don’t expect people to abstain from the Catholic side at all.
“My colleagues and I think it is a good package deal, and I don’t believe we will get anything better on the table again. We would be very foolish not to welcome it.” But, he said, “People who in conscience remain opposed to the principle are, none the less, duty-bound to vote against it. We cannot vote for it. Abstention is a waste of a vote.”
Conservative Evangelicals on Synod are even more adamant. On Tuesday, Prebendary Rod Thomas, chairman of Reform, said that he expected most in his party to vote against the Measure: “Those who have always in principle been against women bishops are going to want to register that principle in their voting. . . Reform is clear that this is a wrong move for the Church.” But he did pay tribute to the “very real and genuine attempts that have been made to find a way forward”.
A sixth switched vote in the House of Laity comes from Adrian Vincent, who describes himself as “half Anglo-Catholic, half Evangelical” with “some theological reservations” about the ordination of women. He said on Tuesday that, having voted against in 2012, he would vote in favour this month.
“What has persuaded me to vote in favour this time is the House of Bishops’ statement of five principles,” he said. “The risk is that that is a statement of intent and there isn’t really a legislative provision backing it up; so I will be stepping out in faith, as it were.”
What is really intriguing about this news from the Church Times, is the statement of one of the ‘Catholic group’, Prebendary David Houlding, as reported here:
” Prebendary David Houlding, a member of the Catholic Group (in the Church of England), expressed his hope that the Measure would go through. But he said that he and other traditionalists would vote against it: “I don’t expect people to abstain from the Catholic side at all. My colleagues and I think it is a good package deal, and I don’t believe we will get anything better on the table again. We would be very foolish not to welcome it.” But, he said, “People who in conscience remain opposed to the principle are, none the less, duty-bound to vote against it. We cannot vote for it. Abstention is a waste of a vote.”
This deliberate admission that the deal before G.Synod is the very best that could be offered to people like David Houlding, who, on principle, will vote against the amended measure to come before General Synod this month, seems breath-taking. In an amazing piece of legerdemain, he expresses the hope that the measure will pass!!!
This sounds a bit like having one’s cake and eating it. If the Measure were to fail, because of ‘NO’ votes like his, it is quite possible that the British government (the C. of E. being the State Church) may may take unilateral action to ensure that the Measure is passed. So where is the logic in Mr. Houlding’s little ruse? Am I wrong in thinking that Mr. Houlder is being a little ingenuous?
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand