LEAD STORY

Why do some people

have difficulties with

the ordination of women?

The Catholic Group on Synod offers an overview of the arguments as Synod meets in London

Those who are opposed to the ordination of women as priests and bishops (sometimes called traditionalists) are not opposed to women’s ministry, nor are they simply prejudiced against women. Indeed most of our members and supporters are women! Nor are we obstructionist.

We want a way forward for all. Our objection is not about gender. The original Anglican Settlement carefully maintained the historic three-fold Apostolic ministry of bishops, priests and deacons. We are therefore guided by the mind of the universal Church, from which Anglican orders are derived, in its present practice as well as its unbroken tradition, in both east and west.

We are not persuaded that the development is biblical. The authority of all ministry is called out of Scripture, women and men clearly have an equality of worth in ministry, though one in which gender is important; women and men are not interchangeable in every respect.

We doubt that, given the lack of theological consensus at present, the specific ministry of women’s ordination is an authentic development, Only time will tell and so we must give this time – The Gamaliel Principle (Acts 5): if this is of God, it will come to command consensus in time; this lies behind the doctrine of Reception.

We are troubled that the Lord’s great command in John 17 has not been sufficiently heeded. Jesus pleaded that his disciples should be one. We need to be attentive to the mind of the whole Church, guided by the Holy Spirit.

Why is the present Measure unsatisfactory?

Because it allows no room for our theological position: All members of the Church of England will be obliged to accept the oversight of women bishops. This is quite different from the current settlement over women priests, whereby no one is compelled to receive the priestly ministry of women.

Because it breaks solemn promises made to us: The provisions under resolutions A and

B, and under the Act of Synod, were said to be permanent, without time limit, as long as they were needed. The breaking of those promises injures not only us, but undermines all assurances made by the Church of England in the future.

Because it enforces conformity on an issue which cannot be proved in Scripture:

This contravenes Article VI of the 39 Articles of Religion; this is something which should concern all Anglicans.

Because it is unfair:

Both proponents and opponents should be provided with episcopal oversight in the same way, i.e. by Stature or Measure.

Because it is sexist:

It simply allows people to substitute a man for a woman. We cannot collude in this. The problem is departure from Holy Orders as the Church of England has received them.

What do we need instead?

A MEASURE which genuinely recognizes our theological position, held in good conscience. The Lambeth Conference of 1998 confirmed that those opposed to the ordination of women are loyal Anglicans, as did the General Synod in 2006. We are asking for a full and honoured place within the Church of England; delegation cannot provide for our theological position.

A MEASURE which recognizes that we do not simply need a male bishop, rather than a female one, but a bishop whom all understand to have been ordained into the historic episcopate.

A MEASURE that gives to those bishops who will care for traditionalists proper authority in their own right, and the tools of the trade to enable them to be true leaders in mission and ministry.

A MEASURE which provides us with bishops by statute, not by delegation.

A MEASURE which restores the rights of lay people. The draft Code of Practice takes from PCCs the existing rights not to receive the priestly ministry of women in their parishes under resolution A. PCCs seeking complementary episcopal oversight could also be vetoed by their incumbent or priest-in- charge. This is quite simply clericalism.

A MEASURE that will hold the Church together. The draft Measure as it stands will not hold the Church of England together, because it does not recognize the needs of traditionalists or deal with them fairly. It does not deliver the partnership in the Gospel which all women and men of goodwill are seeking.

Some common misconceptions

There are several misconceptions and about making provision for traditionalists:

‘It will make women bishops second class.’

NO; we have always called for provision to be made in all dioceses, whether the diocesan bishop is male or female, so that women bishops will not be second-class bishops. Conversely, the current draft Measure makes bishops for traditionalists second class, and those who look to them for pastoral care, second-class members of the Church of

England. We want all to remain and thrive on an equal basis.

‘It will make an additional diocese, and a church within a church. It will undermine diocesan bishops.’

NO; because our bishops would be working in partnership with diocesan bishops. Diocesan bishops themselves will be working increasingly in partnership with one another as resources and administration are routinely shared across diocesan boundaries. A number of institutions do not at present come under the authority of diocesan bishops: e.g. Armed Forces, Royal Peculiars (like Westminster Abbey) and some university colleges; no one claims that they undermine diocesan bishops.

‘Traditionalists are just trying to delay women bishops.’

NO; because we, like everyone else, want closure on this issue, and to move forward in mission. We simply want proper provision for our theological convictions.

‘It will mean impaired communion within the House of Bishops.’

Sadly, this is unavoidable unless traditionalists are simply excluded; it would be a bearable anomaly while the process of reception is ongoing; the issue is how we can deal with the situation creatively. ND

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