As New Directions went
to press the House of Bishops issued a statement regarding their deliberations
on the legislation to allow women to become bishops. There has been one helpful
change to the legislation and there will need to be serious consideration given
to this. We are glad that, at last, the majority of the House of Bishops has
recognised that ours is a position based on legitimate theological convictions.
There are three salient points worth making:
- In the new revision bishops ministering to petitioning parishes cannot
just be male, they must be appointed on their theological convictions. This
might mean a bishop of The Society or of another body. Parishes will, however
still only be able to petition for this with the agreement of their parish
priest and as we have commented before this is unnecessary clericalism and
takes away the rights of congregations. The recommendations do say that
priests appointed to parishes must share their theological convictions, but
this is difficult to enforce. Equally there is no recourse for a priest who
might want his parish to petition.
- Such Bishops act by virtue of their consecration, they may to be invited
to minister in parishes but their acts are episcopal because they are bishops,
whoever may, in law, have had to ask them to minister in the parish. They act
therefore in their own "potestas". That is to say their authority as Bishops
is derived from their consecration. No authority however will be taken away
from the Diocesan Bishop. The alternative bishopís legal authority would be
"delegated" from the Diocesan Bishop rather than independent from that Bishop.
It also seems that this arrangement would have legal force. This raises issues
about the question of headship for evangelicals: who is the head of the
community and who has authority?
- The Bishops and Archbishops renew their commitment to the provision of
such bishops, and re-assert that if the legislation were to pass, the Sees of
Richborough, Ebbsfleet and Beverley continue to exist in law, although this is
not in the draft measure. This is important as it would secure the succession
of bishops for us, however there is still the question of who will consecrate
these bishops, will there be an Archbishop who does not ordain women for
example? The bishops have also affirmed that no one will be disadvantaged when
it comes to selection for the ordained ministry. We are glad the Bishops
acknowledge that for the Church to grow and thrive there must be vocations and
it is good to know that there is some concern that they should continue.
However without full and proper provision such vocations would only be short
lived. It will take very brave people to offer themselves for ministry in a
church where they are simply tolerated.
This will be all of course be subject to a Code of Practice which hasnít been
authorised yet although several drafts have been seen. Of most disappointment to
readers of this magazine is that the bishops have declined to put all of these
ideals into statute. Time and time again we have repeated that a Code of
Practice will not do, and it will not. We need more assurances than the ones on
offer. We are often told that we are being made a generous offer and that other
people need to make concessions. Yes the offer might be more generous, but it is
difficult to see how the legislation could be sufficient for us to live and
thrive in the Church of England.
A summer of uncertainty faces us. As a constituency we
must gather in prayer and to consult as this phase of our history unfolds. There
will be many opportunities to gather in prayer before the Synod, not least at
Vigils organised for
the 1st July. We will need to gather together after the Synod has
met and take guidance from our bishops and those who lead in our constituency.
The summer is also a time of celebration and is a good time for us all to try to
attend patronal festivals, inductions and celebrations of our faith; joining in
fellowship with each other and marking our dedication to our faith. We
do this not as a hardened insular remnant but as a group of people dedicated
to the Gospel. If you have not already done so, why not consider organising your
parish youth group and getting them booked into the Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage?
Let us show the House the Bishops we are here and we want to thrive and get on
with work of spreading the Gospel. ND
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