The vote on Monday
Posted: 11 Jul 2014 @ 00:06 – Church Times Editorial
This remains an “if”, however. As we reported last week, key Synod members – those in the House of Laity who voted against the earlier legislation out of concern for their traditionalist and conservative neighbours – have decided to vote in favour of the new Measure. We found six votes that have shifted, the exact number by which the earlier Measure fell. But this still only brings us back on to the knife edge. Believing the proposals to be workable is not the same as being in favour of them, and so traditionalists and conservatives are almost certainly to continue to press the no button on their electronic voting devices in York. They will be acting on principle, and we should expect nothing more. As with all attempts at democracy, the Anglican synodical system relies on those who participate, both as electors and those willing to stand for election. Four years ago, the present General Synod intake were the men and women chosen to represent their dioceses by those who voted in diocesan synods. The nature of party activism in the C of E means that the balance of their views may never perfectly match those in the Church at large, but this can be addressed only at the time of the five-yearly elections. Even in November 2012, there was little talk of reforming the system: internal reorganisation takes up too much time and energy; but we expect to see more people galvanised into taking part in the elections next year.
The new legislation deserves to pass on Monday. It is an honest and, in the present day, unusual attempt to accommodate and honour within the same institution people who hold diametrically opposing views. The disagreement, confusion, and heart-searching of the past few years have been painful, and have occasioned incomprehension and ridicule among outside observers. But that is the cost of structuring a human institution to follow a divine calling. Trust the C of E to come up with a system of which it might be both proud and ashamed – preferably, at the end of Monday, the former.
Surprisingly (for me, at any rate) is the fact that Angio-Catholics in the Church of England are less concerned about the prospect of Women being ordained as Bishops in that Church than are the very conservative Evangelicals – whose real objection is to what they perceive as a Biblical injunction against women having any role in the Church assembly that would allow them to preach to, or administer authority over the male of the species.
While some trad. Anglo-Catholics are concerned about what they see as a canonical disobedience to ‘catholic order’ , the con/evos are attributing the ‘problem’ to the refutation of an inerrant biblical embargo on any ecclesial authority of women over men.
One (a/c) objection is against human tradition; the other (con/evo); against their ‘sola-scriptura’ understanding of the role of women in the Church.
Whereas, in the earlier stages of the dispute about about women as clergy was seen to be a uniting influence in what came to be seen as an ‘unholy alliance’ against women’s ordination by both extreme groups in the Church of England, has now – when the crunch has come, in a situation where A/Cs can accept the proposed accommodation of separate jurisdiction – for the con/evos, this is a much more serious matter, where they detect the role of women as bishops having actual power in the Church to dictate policy – as an anti-biblical abomination.
Whatever is the outcome of this coming week’s deliberation at the C.of E. General Synod on this issue, it seems unlikely to become a major cause of schismatic breakaway – the numbers of clergy being prepared to join the already schismatic body in England – A.M.i.E – under the patronage of the Gafcon Prelates – on this particular issue, would probably be minimal.
Also, those Anglo-Catholics who are emphatically against the possibility of the Church of England having a two-tiered College of Bishops (female and male) have probably already departed for the Roman Catholic-sponsored Ordinariate.
Our prayers are needed for an orderly process of the acceptance of Women as Bishops in the Church of England – in order to avoid what otherwise might be a take-over of the situation by governmental decree.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand