Bishop Edwin Barnes replies

This is an extract from the Presidential Address to the Church Union on 13 September.

... There is something in her piece [ND September], though, which is far more telling. She upbraids us for saying that promises were broken. Certainly that is how it has seemed to me; we were told by the Synod, the House of Bishops and the 98 Lambeth Conference, that ours was an honourable position, equally tenable with the opposite one, and that the matter would not and could not be settled until the entire Church, Eastern and Western, was agreed. In the interim, no one would be excluded because he or she could not accept women as priests or bishops.

Ah, says Christina Rees, but you misunderstood. A vote taken in one synod cannot 'promise' something in perpetuity, because synodical government is part of a dynamic 'due process'.' So the fact that we were told there was to be no term to the process of reception was meaningless.

That understanding of 'promise' is something we did not understand. We had thought that when a Synod, or a Bishop, or a Lambeth Conference, promised something, it meant it. What is more, both Archbishops promised Parliament that the 'honoured position was guaranteed without any term of years. If these promises mean nothing, then clearly we must rethink our position too.

We have promised; promised obedience to the Bishop and his successors. Watch will understand that those promises might also have been just a matter of convenience, to be ended whenever it suited us. Even before we have women purporting to be bishops, we are relieved of all need for obedience. Why should we not, as a separate and distinct body within Anglicanism, seek reconciliation with the Holy See? We are engaged in a new and dynamic process, that relieves us from any necessity for paying quota, or using Anglican forms of worship, or anything else which smacks of obedience or promise.

Christina and her 'liberal' friends are promising to tolerate us. They want to move towards legislation for women as bishops and 'make mutually acceptable arrangements as needed for those who remain opposed.' Of course, it is they who will judge whether such arrangements were needed, and what they would contain. And as Christina has told us, any promises she makes are subject to change as part of a dynamic 'due process'.

In the USA and Canada and Sweden we have already seen how short a period of 'toleration' is permitted. It would be a matter of months or less before sex-discrimination acts were being invoked to hound us from our parishes.

It is good of Christina Rees to state it all so plainly. We could not have spelled it out more plainly ourselves: a 'code of practice' is worthless where promises are only made to be broken. We have lost, and unless we accept what she accepts we had better go.

Well, dear Christina, many of us are going. But not at a time of your choosing, nor in the way you want us to go. Parish priests are inducted to a living; if they are forced to leave, then there must be proper compensation - and if Synod will not afford it us, then we shall go to law to ensure the rights of priests, many of them with families, whose position is being made untenable.

I understand in civil society that is called 'constructive dismissal'. Claim as you like that 'no one is being driven out', we catholics know ethnic cleansing when we experience it. In our time, under the leadership of our bishops, then we will go; but you and your liberal friends might yet live to regret it.

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