S.S.W.& S.H. Response to Women Bishops in the C. of E.

The Society announces a process for priests to register

The Society under the patronage of St Wilfred and St Hilda has announced a process whereby priests in sympathy with the society can register. This is explained by Colin Podmore in this article, which also appears in the Advent newsletter. The following is taken from the website of the Bishop of Beverley:

Priests of The Society
Colin Podmore encourages priests to sign up and make the Society Declaration.

Catholics believe that both women and men are called to different ministries in the Church. But for theological reasons, we are unable to receive the sacramental ministry of women as priests (presiding at the Eucharist) or bishops (ordaining priests to preside at the Eucharist).

So when the Church of England has women bishops, how can we know that a priest has been ordained by a bishop whose sacramental ministry of ordination we do recognise? How can we be confident that when he celebrates the Eucharist, we really do receive the sacrament of Our Lord’s Body and Blood?

The need to offer an easy answer to that question of ‘sacramental assurance’ is one of the reasons why our bishops have formed The Society. As it says on the Society website, the Society provides ‘ministry, sacraments and oversight which we can receive with confidence’.

Priests are now invited to make a Declaration which says that they:

  • believe and teach the catholic faith
  • are currently entitled to minister as a priest in the Church of England*
  • have been ordained by a male bishop in the apostolic succession of bishops at whose ordination male bishops presided
  • will themselves not receive or join in the sacramental ministry of women priests and bishops or those whom they have ordained
  • will place themselves personally under the oversight of a Bishop of The Society (although they will remain under the legal jurisdiction of their diocesan bishop).

When the relevant Bishop of the Society receives a Declaration from a priest, he will welcome him as a Priest of The Society. The Welcome Letter will serve as proof that the priest is someone whose sacramental ministry we can receive with confidence.

Of course, there will still be validly ordained priests who are not Priests of The Society. Clergy (and, during vacancies, churchwardens) will need to ask some delicate questions about their orders before inviting them to say mass. With Priests of The Society, that research will not be necessary.

Catholic parishes naturally want as their priest someone who is in full communion not only with his bishop, but with all the priests whom that bishop has ordained, and who will support the resolutions passed by the PCC. When advertising for, or interviewing, potential new parish priests, asking them whether they are Priests of The Society will be an easy way of finding out where they stand.

Being a Priest of The Society costs nothing, although the bishops hope that priests and people of The Society will join Forward in Faith, because it is the membership organization which administers The Society on their behalf, and helps to pay for it. Being a priest of The Society involves only the basic obligations of relating to one of our bishops, and looking to him for sacramental ministry we can no longer find elsewhere.

So if a priest has not made the Declaration and become a Priest of The Society, why not?

There is further information on this page, which is copied below the fold.

Continue reading “The Society announces a process for priests to register”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 16 December 2014 at 9:48pm GMT


Thanks to Simon Sarmiento, of ‘Thinking Anglicans’ for this release from The Society of SS.Wilfrid & Hilda, a society promoting the provision of ‘Sacramental Assurance’ in the Church of England, which presumes to safeguard its membership from the ‘taint’ of Women’s Ministry.

From the proposed Declaration, which has to be signed by intending member clergy, it will be clearly seen that their intention will be to avoid any sacramental ministrations from any person – including clergy and bishops – who have been connected in any way with the ordination of a woman into the ordained ministry – as priest or bishop of the Church of England.

From the links provided, one can read the latest publication of the Society – which closely follows the agenda of ‘Forward in Faith’ (F.i.F.) an Anglican Communion-wide association of clergy and laity who insist on a male-only cadre of the ordained in their Anglican churches –  confirming the fear of its members that Women’s Ordination has introduced the possibility of a defective sacramentality, rendering both the women concerned and their ordaining authorities to be considered, by the Society, as invalid ministers of the Sacraments of the Church.

This initiative on the part of F.i.F. and the Society of SS Wilfrid & Hilda – though within their rights as partners in the General Synod decision to allow the Ordination of women as Bishops in the Church of England – will serve to highlight the profound nature of the gap between those who accept, and those few who reject, the ministry of Women in the C.of E. This is not a new attitude on the part of F.i.F., whose membership has previously been provided with the ministry of ‘Flying Bishops’, whose episcopal authority was seen to be ‘untainted’ by their participation in the ordination of women. However, with the passage of legislation allowing women to be ordained bishops in the Church of England, F.i.F. and its associates have secured special measures to avoid oversight by a woman.

This division cannot but render the collegiality of the bishops to be null and void – on the grounds of the divided perception of  the validity of the ministry of a certain class of bishop in the Church of England. The true irony in the case of Anglo-Catholics who are seen here to reject the ministry of a woman bishop, is that their view of collegiality in this situation is fatally flawed. Collegiality among its bishops is one of the basic requirements of the Church Catholic. One cannot but question the Anglican-catholicity of this stance.

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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