The Bishops to Come
Paul Williamson on strategy in an inevitable battle
I WAS at the Forward in Faith Conference on Saturday 13th October and heard these words in disbelief. My mind ranged over the problem, and my heart thumped. Why? Why give in so easily?
The New Testament clearly states in the original Greek that the bishop is of male gender. This is also clear in the English translation where the bishop is described as the husband of one wife, likewise deacon. Presbyteros (Priest) is also masculine, in the Greek, and in English! It is universally accepted - and from the earliest days, as stated in the Preface to the Ordinal BCP there are three Orders of Apostolic Ministry: bishop, priest, and deacon. And if to be a bishop requires progress from deacon to priest to bishop, then all three are of male gender, and there can be no variation because deacon also is to be the husband of one wife and male.
Our Lord Jesus Christ called, chose, and commissioned twelve men to carry on his ministry, and they in turn chose men whom they ordained and sent forth to continue the ministry of the Lord. Therefore, this threefold historic ministry of bishop, priest, and deacon, ultimately derives from the call of the apostles by Jesus.
The Church of England is legally bound by Canon A5 and 39 Articles and their doctrinal standard, and also to require of no man what cannot be proved from Scripture as necessary to salvation. This requires the limitation of essentials to what is contained
within Holy Scripture. In particular, only a male bishop, priest, or deacon are therefore acceptable by this test.
`necessary to Salvation'
A priest is necessary to salvation because he provides the consecrated bread and wine of Holy Communion for the Christian - of which the Lord himself stated it was necessary for salvation to partake `unless you eat of my body'. I cannot see how this can be varied by wishful thinking or by synodical vote. The Lord knew what he was doing in choosing a male ministry to continue his work - and the New Testament defines the traditional view and practice of the sacred ministry for all time.
Therefore I chose to fight in court. Many times I stood before the judge and pointed out the basis of our view of the ministry, beginning with Sir Oliver Popplewell LJ. I was never given a full hearing. All my applications were rejected. So I appealed. Lord Justice Simon Brown stated to me that,when the Queen swore the Coronation Oath `to maintain, preserve, inviolable for ever the worship, doctrine, discipline, and government of the Church of England', the words did not mean what they said!!!
In law the contrary is true, and it is enshrined in statute. The Queen was asked to sign the Measure for the (purported) ordination of women and this is therefore a breach of the Coronation Oath because she had sworn that worship, doctrine, discipline, (all affecting ministry) would never be changed. The government minister who gave Her Majesty such false advice to sign The Measure can be taken to task in law by statutes governing this procedure. Sheila Cameron QC stated, speaking for the Archbishop of Canterbury, that under the Prayer Book Ordinal it is impossible to ordain a woman. BCP is legally binding by statute, and it is the unvariable standard of doctrine of the Church of England.
How was it done?
It was done by a legal fudge, and abuse of the system, and of the Royal Signature. There is no binding statute that states that the Queen, as head of the Church of England, must sign, for here she still rules absolutely. What was done by a legal abuse can be undone by due legal process. So few stood beside me!
Where were the Catholic bishops, where were the Catholic societies, where were the Catholic laity? I ask the same question now. Where are they in the fight against women bishops? The experience of being marginalized as Catholic priests, of Catholic parishes being closed or crushed by devious means,
the squandering of a vast and unequal share of resources and finance on female ministry should give us solemn warning, and sound the call for action.
The legal case against women bishop; is ready. Who will support it? Instead o: an apparently lone voice (according to the judges) will there be a union of Catholic bishops, societies, priests and laity who will oppose publicly through the courts and sup port such action financially? Government ministers and opposing bishops have com
mented that I have argued the case correctly, and it is unanswerable by those in favour of purported female ordinations. I am only right because Church and Tradition and Law are right. But they will not hear one lone priest.
And above all this we must teach true ministry and win hearts and minds. We must educate the nation. If there were to be women bishops, then these are not and cannot be part of the Church of England. If such are consecrated then the way lies open to claim the historic assets and buildings for the true Church by the Overtoun Case and the Halsbury definition of a Church - defined, by its oaths, tests, creeds, and doctrines (which in the case of the Church of England all preclude female ministers). On this Lightman was wrong textually - would Archdeacon George Austin please note -Halsbury refers to any Church whilst Overtoun refers only to the Free Church of Scotland.
No female is ordained in Holy Scripture. No female celebrates Holy Communion. This is the unvariable doctrinal and ministerial position of the Church of England and this is the text to apply to the assets claim. We have the Faith. We have Law. But do we have courage, finance and support? The court case is ready. Women bishops cannot be made in the Church of England. Will you stand - and fight for the Catholic faith?
Paul S Williamson is parish priest of St George's, Hanworth, in the Diocese of London.
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