Religious News Service International, London, 2 Feb 2006

Persistent rumours that the House of Bishops has reached an impasse over how to advance the ordination of women to the episcopate whilst providing for conscientious opponents have been denied today in a statement by Sir Richard Fiddall, Secretary General of the General Synod.

‘The advice of the Guildford Group, set up by the House to consider the options,’ said Sir Richard, ‘was not well received. They came up with a notion they called TEA (Transferred Episcopal Arrangements). Under TEA, ‘C’ parishes throughout the Church of England were to have been transferred to the Diocese of Canterbury, under the direct authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who would have agreed not to consecrate women.’

‘It was WATCH who helpfully pointed out, in a submission to the House, the serious disadvantages of this arrangement. It would have given formal recognition to the doctrine of ‘taint’ which WATCH has been eager to refute (and Forward in Faith as eager to deny). The Archbishop of Canterbury, though his hands would be clean with respect to women bishops, would still be consecrating men who would themselves consecrate women. The idea that touching women in order to make them bishops somehow ‘contaminated’ him was for WATCH a doctrine too far.’

‘The recent announcement of the episcopal ordination of Sandy Millar in Uganda to serve in the Diocese of London, however, has opened up a more practical possibility. Instead of transferring dissentient parishes to another English diocese or metropolitan, it is now agreed that they should be transferred to another province of the Communion altogether; one which does not ordain women. The House was clear that present difficulties meant that Nigeria was ruled out. They settled, with the generous support of Archbishop Agong, on the Province of Papua New Guinea.’

‘In this new scheme, the present PEVs would become assistant bishops of the Diocese of Aipo Rongo, licensed by Rowan to function in England, and appointed by all forty-three diocesans as assistant bishops, so that the fullest contact with the Church of England would be maintained. The new scheme is to be known as TPA (Transferred Provincial Arrangements) – or Strong TEA, as some are already calling it.’

‘This,’ Archbishop Rowan Williams told our RNSI correspondent, ‘is emphatically not a free province.’

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