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NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE
A briefing by members of the Conservative Evangelical and Catholic groupings in the General Synod
The authors of this booklet are all members of the General Synod, some with conservative Evangelical, others with traditional Catholic convictions. We write on behalf of tens of thousands of loyal members of the Church of England. In a recent survey by Christian Research, 31% of practising members of the CofE surveyed said that they were opposed to women bishops – a very considerable minority who need to be provided for properly. Soundings we have taken make it clear that this significant minority does not consider that the current draft legislation makes proper provision. Two of our contributors, Stephen Trott and Paul Benfield, have legal qualifications, and can clearly highlight the deficiencies in this piece of legislation. Lindsay Newcombe asks what sort of Church we want our Church to be. Susie Leafe questions the concept of equality which has characterised much of the debate so far. Lorna Ashworth and Emma Forward give a summary of the evangelical and catholic theological convictions which cannot accept the oversight of women bishops.
The Revd Canon Simon Killwick (Chairman of the Catholic Group in General Synod) Christ Church Rectory Monton Street Manchester, M14 4GP The Revd Prebendary Rod Thomas (Chairman of Reform) St. Matthew's Church Sherford Road Elburton Plymouth, PL9 8DQ
Not Fit for Purpose
assing this draft legislation in November would be to condemn the Church of England to many more years of bitter infighting over women bishops and provision for those who cannot in conscience accept the oversight of women bishops.
The legislation would not provide the robust enduring settlement which would enable all members of the Church to focus our entire time, energy and talents on the mission of the Church. This legislation relies heavily on a Code of Practice to provide for those who cannot accept the oversight of women bishops. The Code cannot be established until the Measure has become law, meaning that the debate over the contents of the Code will not take place until then. Passing the Measure would therefore lead into a further debate about the contents of the Code. The controversy in the summer about the House of Bishops amendments to the draft Measure is a good guide as to the nature of the debate over the Code; it would be like a tug-of-war in which any provision for traditionalists would be vigorously opposed by GRAS, WATCH and senior women priests. Given that the Code has to be agreed by the House of Bishops and the General Synod, the battle over the establishment of the Code could last for years. Even after the initial form of the Code was established, trench warfare would continue. Provisions for traditionalists would be campaigned against, and attacked through various means, including Diocesan Synod motions coming to General Synod. It has already been made clear that WATCH and company are opposed to any provision in the Code of Practice which is not already in the Measure; the situation would not be allowed to rest until that was the case. Passing this draft legislation would not bring closure. 3
Church legislation normally begins with an outline of what it should contain, which commands a broad consensus; this is then translated into legislation through a process which involves a Legislative Drafting Group, a Steering Committee, a Revision Committee and Revision in full Synod. This legislative process is designed to ‘tweak’ and ‘fine tune’ draft legislation, not fundamentally rewrite it, or change or establish policy.
The women bishops legislation was pushed into the legislative process before there was broad agreement on its contents; it was left to the vagaries of the legislative process itself to establish policy – something for which it was never designed. The Steering Committee was supposed to consist only of those who supported the draft Measure as it stood after First Consideration in Synod. However, they abandoned that form of the draft Measure in the Revision Committee, and voted en bloc for the current form of the Measure, which is substantially different from that which Synod had seen at First Consideration. Revision Committees are supposed to have an inbuilt majority in favour of the draft legislation they are to consider. This meant that traditionalists were a small minority on the Revision Committee, and thereby very limited in our influence. It is all the more remarkable that a majority of the Revision Committee supported better provision for traditionalists by Statutory Transfer at one meeting, but less surprising that the Committee later found itself unable to agree on the episcopal functions to be transferred. We were tantalisingly close then to a lasting settlement which would have enabled the whole Church of England to move forward together.
Another tantalising moment came at the Revision stage in full Synod. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York jointly proposed amendments which would have led to bishops being provided for traditionalists on a similar basis to area bishops in Dioceses with area schemes under the 1978 Dioceses Measure (“Co-ordinate Jurisdiction”). The Archbishops' amendment was supported by a majority of the whole Synod, but was narrowly lost in the House of Clergy on a vote by Houses. 4
Tragically, again, the opportunity for a lasting settlement was lost, by the slimmest possible margin, against the will of the majority. As a result, we are left with the current draft Measure, which has never commanded consensus – so much so that attempts are now being made to persuade members of Synod to abstain in order to try and force it through, in a terrifyingly naïve attempt to bring closure.
A Better Way
There has to be a better way – for all our sakes, including women who may be consecrated as bishops: they need to know that their position is clearly and definitively established, not subject to further campaigning and politicking.
We need a settlement which delivers equality before the law for all, and enables mutual respect for each other within the Church of England. We could look to the Church in Wales for an example to follow; having rejected previous unsatisfactory legislation for women bishops, they are now looking at a new process with two related pieces of church legislation, one to provide for women bishops, and the other to provide for traditionalists (the former cannot come into force until the latter has been agreed). This approach has the potential to provide more equally for both those who support women bishops and for those who do not. In England, we should reject the current unsatisfactory legislation and commit ourselves to serious and prayerful conversations towards achieving a fair and lasting settlement for women bishops. To vote against this draft Measure is not to vote against women bishops; it is to vote against a bad piece of legislation which is a recipe for conflict and division for years to come. We have already come tantalisingly close to agreement on both Statutory Transfer and Co-ordinate Jurisdiction. The idea of a Society to provide for traditionalists still has widespread attraction. It is not that we have exhausted the options; we haven't considered them properly due to the fatally flawed process. We owe it to ourselves, to the Church, and to God, to find a better way forward. Simon Killwick 5
What Sort of Church We Want to Be
his time in the life of the Church of England gives us a prayerful opportunity to ask ourselves ‘what sort of Church do we want to be?’ Now we have an opportunity to shape our vision for the long-term future of God’s Church.
Peaceful in unity
It is a joy and a privilege to be a member of the Church of England: we have a particular role to minister to all in our land. Our breadth of spirituality and expression is one of the gifts which we are called to share.
It is also one way in which we are well-placed to acknowledge our part in the whole of the Church of God. Despite our differences, if we are all proclaiming the same Gospel of peace together, then we are better witnesses to that peace.
Joyful in love
If we strive to recognize in each other our individual gifts and charisms then it will be our joy to allow people from different traditions and outlooks to be able to play a full ministry in the Church of England.
By working together to provide an equal place within the church for all we will deepen our understanding of what it means to be part of the Body of Christ. In a world of diversity, what better way to demonstrate the sacrificial love of Jesus than to be welcoming and show hospitality to those with whom we have disagreements?
Vibrant in mission
Let us not leave this debate unfinished by passing legislation that does not allow us to move forward with women bishops together. If we do, decades or centuries from now, the Church who wants to be vibrant and active in spreading the Gospel will still be weighed down by the legacy of legislation which ties up its people in legal and structural debates instead of freeing them for mission.
If we really want the Church of England to be peaceful in unity, joyful in love, and vibrant in mission for many generations to come, then we need to take a deep breath now and allow the Spirit to work through us and make these important decisions in the right way. We need to be a Church which prays together, that really talks and listens together, and makes decisions in the interests of the whole Body of Christ. Lindsay Newcombe 7
The Draft Measure is not a Compromise Early Hopes
n the early days of debate over women bishops, the General Synod seemed in a mood for compromise.
In 2006 it voted to continue to look at the possibility of legislation but to include the idea of transferred Episcopal arrangements (TEA) in that process. However, TEA was not pursued after the House of Bishops failed to agree on the proposals prepared by the Bishops of Guildford and Gloucester. Subsequently, the Manchester Report of April 2008 explored various options for a way forward, together with some of their implications. It described various proposals for new structures, such as an additional province; religious societies; use of ‘peculiar’ jurisdictions; and the creation of special dioceses. It then looked at possible arrangements within existing structures and identified four options. The first two relied on a Code of Practice; the third on mandatory delegation of functions; and the fourth on the statutory transfer of specified responsibilities. In debating this, during what were, at times, very fraught sessions of Synod, we said that in order to have any sense of long-term assurance about our ministries within the Church of England, we needed clear legislative provision.
To place heavy reliance on a Code of Practice for the formation of diocesan schemes and to make ‘delegation’ the legal means for the exercise of Episcopal ministry for those who could not accept women bishops on theological grounds, was altogether inadequate. Yet this was precisely the form the draft legislation took – and there has been no movement since. 8
Efforts at Compromise
By contrast, we have consistently sought compromise: We participated fully in giving evidence to the Revision Committee and at one stage thought that a spirit of compromise had prevailed. However, having agreed in principle to the idea of transferring jurisdiction, the Committee failed to find any area where they were prepared to see this happen. We urged Synod to think again about special dioceses or a form of transferred jurisdiction – but failed to win majority support. We supported the two Archbishops in their attempt to introduce the idea of ‘co-ordinate’ jurisdiction – something an overall majority of Synod supported, but which failed owing to a close defeat in the House of Clergy. During the Diocesan consultations, we were delighted at the number of dioceses which asked the General Synod to consider asking the House of Bishops to revisit the Archbishops’ proposals, only to see the ground cut from under them by an amendment which restricted the House of Bishops’ freedom of action.
Throughout the process, we have searched for a way forward: we have formed societies (St Wilfred & St Hilda and St Augustine) in order to demonstrate that we are willing to use those routes to enable our ministries to be exercised – in the hope that these might provide an alternative way of looking at the issue of jurisdiction. We also participated fully in mediated discussions hosted some years ago by the Dean of Westminster and more recently by the Bishops of Coventry and Durham.
Recent Changes in the Draft Measure
The first move towards compromise came when the House of Bishops introduced amendments to clauses 5 and 8 of the draft Measure. The amendment to Clause 8 helpfully draws a distinction between the legal process of ‘delegation’ and the basis of Episcopal ministry which is ‘derived’ from a bishop’s orders.
However, it is difficult to imagine what practical impact this will have. The latter simply implies someone is qualified to serve; the former may still require them to act under the authority of a woman bishop. So far as Clause 5(1)(c) is concerned, the impact of the original wording from the House of Bishops has now been all but lost. The new wording seeks to relate the theological convictions of a parish to a diocesan process of selection. It is very uncertain what impact this might have – if any.
Provision on Whose Terms?
Those most firmly opposed to us say that they have already compromised by agreeing to go along with the idea of ‘provision’ in the first place. However, it has only ever been provision on their terms and the end result is something that offers us little hope for long-term ministry in the Church of England.
In his presidential address to the General Synod in February 2010, the Archbishop of Canterbury said this: “Whatever we decide, we need to look for a resolution that allows some measure of continuing dignity and indeed liberty to all – in something like their own terms. It isn't enough to brush aside the problems some find with codes of practice or others find with the need for women bishops to transfer authority automatically. People have a claim to be heard in their own terms, just as we have been arguing in Parliament.” The draft legislation does not reflect the terms on which we have been asked to be heard. Rod Thomas 10
The Draft Measure is Fatally Flawed
t is twenty years since General Synod approved the two Measures which opened the way for women to be ordained as priests in the Church of England, and there is widespread recognition on all sides that we should now be finding a way forward which will enable women to be consecrated to serve the Church as bishops. However, the present draft Measure is not simply a single clause bill which would enable that to happen: it is designed both to open episcopal orders to women, and to repeal the formal provisions successfully made in the 1992 legislation for those who continued to hold differing theological beliefs to continue in fellowship within the one body of the Church of England. In the course of the present year, most of the debate about the Measure has been focused on the detail of the text of s.5, and the replacement provision which it is claimed to make for the minority who remain opposed to the Measure - some 23% of the laity voting in diocesan synods around the country. Unfortunately the amended clause can not legally achieve the purpose for which it has been drafted. It refers to a Code of Practice, the contents of which will certainly be strongly contested and approved by simple majority, and only once the Measure is law.
It will not be practically enforceable as there is no lawful way of ensuring the future appointment of any new bishop who would be able to carry out its functions once the Act of Synod is repealed. The draft Measure is therefore fatally flawed in one of its key principles. 11
This project has unique and historic importance for the life of the Church of England, but the Measure with which we have been presented by the steering committee has not observed the principle most recently restated by Hilary Rodham Clinton on 15 July of this year: “Democracy is not just about reflecting the will of the majority. It is also about protecting the rights of the minority.” Despite the submission of a broad range of proposals to the revision committee, which would have secured a balanced Measure and therefore would have assured Final Approval in November, those promoting the Measure have used their inbuilt simple majority at every stage in order to defeat every attempt, including those of our two Archbishops, to include any effective statutory provision within the legal framework which will be created by the Measure.
A significant number of Anglicans, adhering faithfully to theological traditions which until recently were the official teaching of the Church of England, will find themselves placed outside the very episcopal ministry which constitutes the Church of England as an episcopal church.
The most they will be able to hope for is to receive occasional visits from a bishop who “respects” their theological stance. By any criteria, this is hardly even a second class status, and one which is likely to disappear. As we approach the Final Approval debate, the constitution of the Synod does not allow us to make any further changes which would remedy the Measure and make it equitable and fair.
We are under pressure to conclude the discussion and to “get on with it”. The sense of urgency is acknowledged on both sides of the debate. But should we legislate at any price, knowing that what we are approving is bad legislation? And knowing that we do have an alternative - to defeat this particular set of proposals, which do not have the status of holy writ, and start again?
A Measure of Agreement
Our rules do permit us, if we choose, to start again immediately. But this time we should begin by meeting around the table and discovering exactly what we could agree to at Final Approval. The new Measure could then be designed to embody agreement rather than conflict, and an equitable outcome for everyone.
We have been here before. In 1999 Synod passed by an overwhelming majority a Churchwardens Measure which was such bad legislation that the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament returned it to us for amendment. It took a little longer to get a new Measure on to the statute book, but we did it, and that Measure is now part of the familiar landscape.
A Bad Measure Will be Bad for All of Us
We don’t need to approve one when it is entirely open to us in short order to produce one which will stand the test of time and the judgement of history. The only way we can do this now is to withhold our support for the current badly designed Measure when we vote at the Final Approval stage on 20 November. Stephen Trott
Legal Issues with the Draft Measure
he legislation permitting women bishops will revoke the 1993 Measure on women priests in its entirety and so the statutory provisions which allowed many to remain in the Church of England after women priests will disappear.
Removal of Existing Provisions
A PCC will no longer be able to pass Resolution A and prevent a woman priest from presiding at the Holy Communion or pronouncing the absolution. Whether or not a woman presides will be entirely a matter for the parish priest – he need not even give any notice that a woman will preside at a particular service.
Resolution B, which, when passed by a PCC prevents a woman from being appointed as incumbent or priest in charge is replaced by a simple letter of request from the PCC to the bishop that a male priest be appointed.
Removing the Rights of the Laity
Episcopal ministry in a parish is also governed by a letter of request sent by the PCC to the diocesan bishop requesting that episcopal ministry and pastoral care in the parish should be provided by a male bishop. But this resolution is only effective if the incumbent or priest in charge votes in favour of it. 14
How these letters of request are responded to will depend on the contents of the code of practice which cannot be made until after the Measure has received the royal assent.
The Code of Practice is a Blank Cheque
There is no certainty what the code will say since it has to be made by the House of Bishops and approved by General Synod. Passing this legislation is thus like signing a blank cheque. And even if the provisions in the code are generous at first there is no guarantee that they will remain for the bishops can amend it at any time and those amendments would only need to be approved by a simple majority of the General Synod.
There has been much comment on the new clause 5 (1) (c), inserted by the House of Bishops, which in its latest form says that the code must give guidance as to ‘the selection of male bishops and male priests in a manner which respects the grounds on which parochial church councils issue letters of request’. The earlier wording of ‘is consistent with’ might have given some comfort to those parishes that issued letters of request, but the new wording ‘respects’ is much weaker and its legal meaning is uncertain. I can respect your views without doing anything to provide for your needs. So the code may or may not provide for the needs of those who cannot accept women priests and women bishops. There is no guarantee that their needs will be met in the code of practice. Whatever the provisions of the code of practice are, and however generous they may be, they will not be enforceable. Bishops, patrons and others need not follow the provisions of the code, but need only ‘have regard’ to the provisions of the code. Legal advice from the General Synod lawyers has made it clear that so long as people consider the provisions of the code they may depart from them if they have ‘cogent reasons’ for doing so. It will not be long before a bishop finds that because of the particular geography of an area or questions of churchmanship or shortages of clergy not dealt with in the code of practice, he or she will not follow it. 15
The only way that decisions by bishops, patrons and others not following the code can be challenged is by judicial review in the High Court. Parishes are unlikely to have the financial resources to mount such a challenge. Where is the honoured place for those who cannot accept women bishops and priests?
This legislation is unfair to those who cannot accept women priests and women bishops. Its effects are uncertain and it does not provide a secure and permanent place for those who hold to traditional views on ordination in the Church of England. It must, therefore, be rejected.
An Equal Future for All?
ho could possibly argue with the call for equality that we have heard again and again during this debate? Well, I would suggest that George Orwell, for one, would have his concerns. Over 65 years ago, he famously recognised that assertions by public authorities that they are acting in the interests of “equality” are usually little more than attempts to impose the interests of one faction over all others.
In November the House of Bishops have made clear their hope to persuade the whole Church to endorse a Measure which will remove the anomaly of the male-only episcopate. Before voting for this legislation we must be sure that what appears to be a call for equality does not end up threatening the legitimate interests of the wider community. The view of equality that is being endorsed by the current House of Bishops has two very concerning characteristics. The first relates to the source of our equal value, the second to the effect of our equal standing on our view of gender.
The Source of our Equality: two choices
First, the proponents of this Measure adopt the view that our value comes from what we do and how we are perceived by others; thus women can only be equal to men, or, indeed men to women, if they can each occupy the same role and be perceived by others to have the same status. The Measure, therefore, has been drafted to avoid legislating to limit a bishop’s role or authority over the diocese for fear of creating “second-class bishops”. 17
This view is contrary to how both the Bible and the Church have traditionally viewed the source of our equality. Both have taught that our equality stems not from what we do but from what God has done for us; God created each one of us and Christ paid the same price for each one of us, so we are free to serve one another without reference to role or status. To attempt to describe one person as more or less equal than any other is therefore an absurdity. Our value is found in Christ not in our role within the church or world. This view appears to suggest that being a bishop gives someone greater value. However, leadership in the Church is surely modelled on the Son of Man, who came not to be served but to serve and thus his under-shepherds are servants of his flock who have “made themselves nothing”. To be called to be a bishop is a calling to serve God’s family. The Church is not a workplace with a hierarchy to climb but a family where each member has different responsibilities but is equally valuable
The Effect of our Equality: two choices
The second characteristic of equality takes the first characteristic to its logical conclusion; for men and women to be equal on the basis of their role in society they must be interchangeable for all purposes. Thus, with reference to Women Bishops it is argued that it is ridiculous to suggest that one gender should be excluded from that role (or any other) because gender is of no significance. (The self-defeating nature of this argument is all too obvious: if gender does not matter, why focus on it as a source of inequality?). Nonetheless, the point has to be grappled with because the extrapolation of the idea from the issue of episcopal leadership to issues of sexuality is all too obvious.
Scripture and the Church have traditionally taught that gender matters; that the differences between men and women should be respected and celebrated. Our welcome into the family of God should not diminish our masculinity or femininity, instead from the Garden of Eden to the Heavenly 18
City we are given a consistent example of equality and diversity worked out over thousands of years and a myriad of cultures. We must acknowledge that sin has led to that pattern being disrupted and that pain and suffering has been caused as a result but equality can best be found through Christ redeeming our femininity and masculinity, rather than removing it. The Lambeth Conference in 1998 made clear that both views of equality were equally valid and equally Anglican. This booklet makes clear why Traditional Anglo-Catholics and Conservative Evangelicals do not believe that proper provision has been made for our view of equality in this Measure. WATCH and GRAS have made clear in their campaigns against the original Clause 5(1)c that they do not desire the continuance of co-existence. Their prioritisation of the redefinition of equality has led them to state that any alternative view is a non-gospel theology and one which no future ordinand should hold. That is a strange definition of equality and an even stranger means of recognizing diversity.
The Future of Equality
The long term health, unity and mission of the Church of England depends on us finding a better solution than this Measure provides; a better Measure which does not establish one factional view as the only one to be regarded as legitimate and orthodox; a better Measure which allows women to enter the episcopate but in doing so does not leave some more equal than others. Susie Leafe
Conservative Evangelical Conviction in a Nutshell
e believe that Christians have a responsibility to follow God’s given pattern for the role of men and women in the church as shown to us in scripture. This theological position is based on a commitment to interpret scripture faithfully and therefore is not simply a social issue.
The pattern is this: that certain men are charged by God to exercise the faithful, authoritative teaching of doctrine and the exercise of disciplinary authority within the church. This means not just ‘no women’, but also not just any man. (1 Timothy 2:11-12) In other words, certain men are called by God to have the formal authority to teach doctrine faithfully as they care for their congregations. This is not to say that women lack the understanding or ability to teach doctrine, it is just not the role God has designated for them.
Women are very much needed as part of ministry teams and this is recognised by the many women employed in conservative evangelical churches as deacons and in various lay ministry roles. It follows that those men given the responsibility to exercise the faithful teaching of doctrine for the care of the flock also have the responsibility to deal with issues arising from the teaching or practice of false doctrine.
1 Corinthians 14:26 assumes that anyone, men and women, might offer a lesson or ‘word of instruction’ to a congregation. Although conservative evangelicals disagree as to the extent of the ‘instruction’, it does not 20
undermine the fundamental principle that whoever is given the privilege of instructing a congregation, the oversight and responsibility remains with the vicar (priest) and in turn, the bishop.
Modelled on Christ
‘Male headship’ does not mean men permanently having power over women and this is most clearly described in Ephesians 5 in the context of marriage. The husband’s headship is to be modelled on that of Christ; in other words he is to set a lead in self-sacrificing service; the wife also is to set an example – in her case modelling what it is like for the church to submit to Christ (Eph 5:24). In neither case is there an issue of power; both parties agree to give up their rights for the sake of the other.
However, the way in which they do this differs. For the church to order itself in a way that fails to allow for this sort of differentiated modelling is to diminish its witness to the world. Our great example is Christ, who although equal as God is also ‘subjected’ to Him for eternity (1 Cor 15:28). Therefore, if women are to be consecrated as bishops, without a guaranteed and respected place in the church for traditionalists, conservative evangelicals would be required to take an oath of canonical obedience to a woman bishop which would result in spiritual conflict of conscience and integrity. This is unacceptable and untenable. Lorna Ashworth 21
Women Bishops: Catholic Theological Issues
Men and Women Matter
n creation, God made us male and female. We see in Holy Scripture that God reveals himself to his people through the language, imagery and reality of gender. Most importantly, in the person of Jesus, God made himself known within the boundaries of gender: as a man, born of a woman.
As God's people, therefore, we understand that his plan for each one of us is never separate from our gender: ranging from our life within family to our life within the Church. We are called to rejoice in the roles for which God has made us; through these roles we come to understand our salvation.
Sacramental Acts Matter
Through the sacraments of the Church, we as Christians engage with Jesus in a very real way. In the Church of England they are to us ‘the means of grace and the hope of glory’ where the Church in each place and time is united to the Church in every place and time. So, in each sacramental act God gives us something deeply profound and mysterious. 22
Bishops are central to the ministry of these sacraments. In the Church of England’s Ordinal we understand Bishops to be ‘principal ministers of word and sacrament’ and ‘the guardians of the faith of the apostles’. Furthermore, we believe a bishop is called to function ‘in fellowship with the universal church’, not as a free agent but in a ministry ‘loyal to the inheritance of faith as [their] inspiration and guidance under God’.
The validity of a bishop’s orders is critical to their relationship with the Church. If we create a doubt about a bishop’s orders, we create a doubt about a bishop’s essential role as unifier and guardian of the faith. Because of the sacramental character of their ministry, priests in the Church of England cannot operate without full confidence in the orders of their bishop. This is because every priest in their sacramental ministry operates in the bishop’s place: for the bishop and in his stead. Men and women matter. If we are to introduce women bishops, we must provide properly for bishops for traditional Catholics and Evangelicals within the Church of England; this draft Measure does not do that. Emma Forward 23