How Did We Get Here from There?

By Prudence Dailey
development that they would continue to have an “honoured place” within the church, and that their “integrity” would be respected. An Act of Synod was passed to make arrangements for them, including the provision of Provincial Episcopal Visitors (“flying bishops”). Indeed, it is widely accepted that this measure could not have achieved the necessary two-thirds majority in all three Houses without such provisions. In the initial stages of the discussion, once the General Synod had approved in principle that women should be bishops, many who opposed this decision recognized that the consecration of women to the episcopate was inevitable, and those backing the change said that it should be brought about in a way which enabled everyone to remain in the Church of England in good conscience. There was much talk of “squaring the circle,” and a number of contributors spoke of their desire to avoid becoming like the Episcopal Church, with deep divisions and warring factions, and attempts to subdue a minority through the raw exercise of power. The general mood was one of optimism: those who could not accept women as bishops believed that there was a genuine desire to accommodate them, and that a way would be found (just as it had been in 1992) for those with divergent convictions on the matter to live together in relative harmony. In 2006, the Synod voted overwhelmingly to “take note” of a report which included proposals for Transferred Episcopal Authority. But at the following House of Bishops meeting, “senior women” made representations that they would not be prepared to be bishops under such arrangements, so they were dropped. Various alternative proposals for accommodation were put forward by traditional Anglo-Catholics and conservative evangelicals, still confident at that stage that something suitable would emerge. During an emotional debate in July 2008, however, every one of those proposals was in turn rejected by the Synod in favour of a simple Code of Practice, as supporters of women bishops expressed fears that the proposals for greater accommodation, enshrined in legislation, would result in women becoming “second-class” bishops, and assured the Synod that legislative provision should not be required if only we would all “trust the bishops.” The Rt. Rev. Stephen Venner, then Bishop of Dover, a supporter of women as bishops, and generally
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December 23, 2012 • THE LIVING CHURCH 25


he compact geography of England means that our General Synod is able to meet much more frequently — twice or occasionally three times a year — than on the other side of the Atlantic. The advantages of this arrangement include the opportunity to work towards important decisions through several stages of deliberation, and the opportunity for members, who are elected for five-year terms, actually to get to know each other personally, and to establish relationships across diverse backgrounds and positions. This, in turn, ought to lead — at least in theory — to greater mutual respect. It should also be noted that, for certain types of business, a two-thirds majority in all three Houses (bishops, clergy, and laity) is required for the legislation to pass at the final stage, although only simple majorities are required up to that point. Twenty years ago, when the Church of England’s General Synod approved a measure to ordain women as priests, assurances were given to those who in conscience could not accept this

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regarded as a liberal, was in tears as he said that
for the first time in my life I feel ashamed. We have talked for hours about wanting to give an honourable place to those who disagree; we have been given opportunities for both views to flourish; we have turned down almost every realistic opportunity for the views of those who are opposed to flourish; … and we still talk the talk of being inclusive and generous.

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Both archbishops were clearly dismayed; at the end of the debate, the Archbishop of Canterbury abstained on the motion to proceed to the next stage. In July 2010, the archbishops attempted to salvage the situation by bringing forward an amendment to introduce “coordinate jurisdiction.” Whilst an overall majority of Synod members supported the amendment, it fell in the House of Clergy by just five votes. It is worth noting that at no stage of the proceedings has there been a two-thirds majority in the House of Laity in favour of the proposals. After traditionalists repeatedly told the Synod that the proposed Code of Practice simply was not an adequate response to the substance of their theological objections to women bishops, it should have come as no surprise that the legislation was defeated. Advocates of women bishops should have realised that, much as they might have wished it otherwise, the Synodical process did what it was designed to do: ensure that major changes cannot be made without consensus, and that the majority cannot exercise tyranny over a substantial minority. Instead, those of us who in good conscience voted against the measure have been collectively subjected to an outpouring of vitriol, bile, mis representation, and contempt, including (I am sorry to say) in some cases from other members of General Synod, through the media and social net-

26 THE LIVING CHURCH • December 23, 2012

works. Suddenly, there are cries that the House of Laity is unrepresentative of the laity at large, that the system is “broken,” and even that Parliament should intervene to impose women bishops on the church. Opponents of the measure are told that we have damaged the Church of England; we are caricatured as “extremists” and worse. We are threatened with a “single-clause measure” next time around, without even a Code of Practice to provide for those who cannot accept women as bishops. If ever there was a question whether legislative provision was really necessary — whether what was required was, after all, just more generous mutual trust — such an aspir ation seems hopelessly naïve now. Prudence Dailey is chairman of the Prayer Book Society in England and, since 2000, a member of the General Synod of the Church of England.

More Reformers, Please
I was excited to see “Looking Toward Luther 2017” [TLC, Oct. 7], but I was surprised to see that it was, like many articles in TLC, written from the Catholic perspective. Martin Luther’s theology, especially justification by faith and its theological underpinnings, imbues much of the Thirty-nine Articles. William Tyndale translated Luther’s work and brought it to England, which helped kick-start the Reformation. Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley were all directly influenced by the great German Reformer. I hope we can also recover the “Protestant Face of Anglicanism” (see Paul Zahl’s book) and not just the Catholic one, especially when speaking of Luther. The Rev. Alex Large Assistant rector All Saints’ Church Chevy Chase, Maryland Christopher Wells replies: Thanks to Brother Large for his kindly encouragement and intercession on behalf of Martin and his legacy within Anglicanism — something indeed worth recalling and celebrating. TLC frequently publishes articles on evangelical aspects of our tradition (so, e.g., the winning essay on Charles Simeon in our education issue [TLC, Aug. 12]), in the conviction that Christian truth, wherever it may be, tends toward visible unity. The very Catholic Martin Luther taught nothing less, and was no doubt blessing the Holy Father as he undertook his summer’s study of the great German Reformer. May the Church produce many more such evangelical popes!

Ready to Help
It was with great interest that I read the editorial (“A Lenten Opportunity”) [TLC, Dec. 2]. I’m a Roman Catholic theologian, but one with great respect and affection for the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church. I grieve over the pain being experienced and expressed by so many at this time as I watch from the fond margins all of the developments in your communion. The editorial was particularly hopeful and very comforting. I share your hope that “the South Carolinian proceedings … be placed on hold by all parties for a season of unspecified duration, leaving a space for the Spirit of truth and reconciliation.” The idea of “ecclesiological summit-cum-retreat” in Lent is a good one. I pray the leaders you have challenged will take the idea to heart. And, if a well-intentioned, warmhearted Roman theologian is needed to serve in any capacity (observer or referee), please put my name into the hat for consideration. John B. Switzer Associate Professor of Theology Spring Hill College Mobile, Alabama

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December 23, 2012 • THE LIVING CHURCH 27

Let Synod Work Freely
By Mark Chapman


rudence Dailey helpfully explains some of the underlying issues [TLC, Dec. 23] regarding General Synod’s legislation on women in the episcopate. Although I voted in favour of the legislation, I was quite aware that there were many who simply did not trust the bishops to provide for those loyal Anglicans who remained opposed to the ordination of women as bishops. After the vote, I did not myself blame the laity or the system. What was being voted on was not simply the principle of women as bishops, but the safeguards offered to those opposed to women’s ministry. The basic idea was that women should have the same legal authority as any other bishop, but that pastoral care and liturgical acts would be delegated to men. This carefully crafted compromise was presented for discussion at General Synod in July 2010 and, as Dailey has described, the passage through Synod was far from plain sailing. What happened then was quite without precedent: the archbishops of Canterbury and York introduced an amendment that would have created two sets of bishops, and which had the support of the majority of bishops. As I read the situation, the rejection of this amendment by the Synod spelt the end of the credibility of the House of Bishops. The archbishops did not seem

to realise that a blatant refusal to listen to the formal mechanisms of Synod would be disastrous for efforts at building the sort of trust needed to move the measure through the legislative process. The archbishops assumed that a “circle could be squared” and everybody could be satisfied in some sort of woolly Anglican comprehensiveness. I think they were fundamentally wrong: synods, like parliaments, are a way of institutionalising conflict. They are not about consensus-building, but are far more about allowing people to live with divisions without resorting to violence or schism. And in the church, just as in politics, the question of legitimacy is central. For synods to work they need to be seen as legitimate; their authority and power needs to be accepted by the churches they seek to govern. But this trust and sense of legitimacy has broken down.


n the new General Synod, to which I was elected and which first met in November 2010, it was clear that there was a poisonous relationship between the House of Bishops and the other two Houses. For instance, in what should have been a straightforward piece of rubber-stamping, at the prompting of Miss Dailey herself in alliance with a member of the House of Clergy, the Synod rejected a bishop, who was suffragan to the Archbishop of Canterbury, as chairman of the business committee: Synod was clearly rebelling

22 THE LIVING CHURCH • January 6, 2013

against its bishops. In the subsequent months the Anglican Communion Covenant, which was supposed to offer a mechanism for conflict resolution among the worldwide churches, was firmly rejected in the dioceses, notwithstanding the support of most of the bishops, especially the Archbishop of Canterbury. What was clear in the runup to the Synod and in the debate itself was that the significant minority who did not support women as bishops together with their sympathisers did not have sufficient trust that those responsible for the provisions — the bishops — would make them work unless they were forced to by law. A rational observer might find little substance to their arguments, but it was not a question of reason so much as politics. The bishops had failed to trust the mechanisms of Synod, so why should they be trusted now? For those conservatives who are likely to be suspicious of bishops anyway, and who certainly feel threatened by what they regard as the dominant liberalism of the church, it meant little that the bishops rallied behind the measure in November. The damage had already been done in July 2010. One should not blame the House of Laity for the contempt for Synod shown by the House of Bishops, and one

should not blame the laity for rejecting the measure. Synods can work, but they have to be trusted. Autocracy, however divinely established, is not a good way of gaining friends and influencing people, especially when they are the ones who are paying their dues. The bishops — like the government — have an honoured place in the process, but their respect and their trust has to be won through cooperation and engagement. Chastened bishops need to remember that in an established church it is to the House of Laity that most of the old royal powers have been delegated. If they work with synod then the Church of England might have the leaders it so richly deserves, men and women. That will be the task for Justin Welby as he takes the helm of the church in the new year: one can hope that he will be a politician. That means recognising that conflict is the normal state of the church, and that sometimes a consensus will be impossible. The Rev. Mark Chapman is vice principal of Ripon College, Cuddesdon, and reader in modern theology in the University of Oxford. His books include Anglicanism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford 2006) and Anglican Theology (T&T Clark, 2012).

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January 6, 2013 • THE LIVING CHURCH 23

Sharp Bits on a

By Andrew Goddard
hen I met a bishop last week one of his first questions was how my wife — a parish priest in London — was after “the vote.” I answered honestly that although disappointed she thought she must be rather odd. She did not feel as distraught or angry or undermined as it appeared many supporters of women bishops did, certainly those reported in the media. Of course, I explained, that reaction was not unconnected with the fact that her conversations with fellow evangelicals meant she was not totally surprised by the result and the day after the vote she visited her father — a retired conservative evangelical clergyman and a role model for her own ministry — who now feels more confident that he will be able to remain in the Church of England for at least a few more years. As Prudence Dailey points out (TLC, Dec. 23), it would have been good if such deep bonds of affection were more widely present across this divide. The fallout in the last few weeks has, however, shown us — as Rowan Williams frequently said it would during debates — what sort of church we are. Much of that revelation has not been a pretty sight. Prudence clearly explains how it looks from her perspective as an opponent of women bishops and someone who voted against the enabling measure. Although I would not dispute what she says, and her critique of why the provision ended up as it did needs to be heard and taken on board, what she does not say is also important. In particular, when diocesan synods were asked their views on the proposed measure (then with
24 THE LIVING CHURCH • January 6, 2013


even less “provision” than was present in the final amended text of the legislation) they overwhelmingly voted in favour with only two dioceses voting against. While a significant minority remained opposed, this was only 23 percent among clergy and laity. Exactly the same percentage of clergy voted against in the General Synod but an astonishing 38 percent of the lay diocesan representatives voted against. Questions about how representative the vote was are therefore valid. The sad fact is that this question now threatens to dominate the lay elections to the next General Synod. The real danger is that the pendulum may swing the other way with a concerted effort to replace opponents with those most supportive of women bishops, which could lead to another unrepresentative body. The other danger is a serious breakdown in trust at various levels. Mark Chapman points to the lack of synodical trust in the bishops. I think he is right that many do not trust the bishops, particularly conservative evangelicals (the opponents I know best) who, unlike Catholic opponents, have no voice among the bishops. However, his examples show the bishops trying to help opponents whereas the problem lay opponents had was, as Prudence notes, when bishops appeared to then succumb to pressure from supporters of women bishops and support weaker provision. As long as the House contains no women and very few opponents it is going to struggle to be representative and to offer leadership which does not appear to be reacting to external pressures.


more fundamental question is the role of bishops in relation to Synod. Archbishop Williams’s care-

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ful statement last July spoke of the responsibility of bishops for “the oversight of the faith and discipline of the Church” and described synodical government as meaning that “bishops invite others to join them in exercising that responsibility as responsibly and effectively as they can.” There are signs, however, that parts of the Church of England may be moving to the more “democratic” understanding of governance seen in U.S. church polity where bishops’ particular calling and responsibility is not given such priority and prominence. These various issues of trust and governance — between the Houses of General Synod and General Synod and the wider church and Parliament — are now going to feed into debates about women as bishops as well as debates over same-sex relationships which are going to hit Synod with new force very soon. I hoped and prayed that, for all its failings, the proposed measure would pass because it offered the best way forward and could, I believe, have worked. It is true that it had never received two-thirds among the laity but it was much more likely to clear that barrier than any other proposals on offer. It is encouraging that those who voted against are saying they accept that women bishops will be a reality and their only concern is the provision made for opponents. However, there has been an unwillingness among some opponents really to engage with what it would mean for them to minister within a church that included women bishops. At times it has appeared that opponents’ condition for accepting women as bishops in the Church of England is that the church puts in place structures that authorise them to deny women are bishops in the church of which they are part. That is simply not possible either theologically or politically. Among the disastrous consequences of the Synod vote is that it has made it even less likely supporters will
(Continued on next page)

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countenance anything that gives even a hint of such a scenario. Prudence refers to concerns that alternatives suggested would “result in women becoming ‘second-class’ bishops” but she says no more. That is a genuine and valid concern that opponents need somehow to recognise: the legislation cannot treat women as lesser bishops. That is a nonnegotiable for almost all supporters. What those of us committed to women becoming bishops need to do, however, is to recognise and genuinely “respect” that somewhere between a fifth and a quarter of Church of England clergy and laity will not be able to receive a woman’s episcopal ministry in the way they receive that of a male bishop. What is more, the reasons for that are theological and we as a church need to honour Lambeth 1998 III.2, supported by General Synod in 2006, “that those who dissent from, as well as those who assent to the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate, are both loyal Anglicans.” For me one of the most disappointing and alarming developments has been the dismissal of opponents as simply misogynistic, prejudiced and discriminatory by those who voted for legislation promising to “respect” such views. I disagree strongly with those who reject women as bishops. I wish they could see the good news I see in Scripture affirming that women are gifted and called by God to build up the Church in the same ways as men. Nevertheless, I do believe that they take the stance they do because of their theology and their commitment to live under the authority of Scripture and/or respect the authority of the wider Church through space and time. I believe that the legislation needs somehow to acknowledge this reality.


t may be that to uphold de jure equivalence between male and female in the episcopate while mak-

26 THE LIVING CHURCH • January 6, 2013

ing space for this de facto reality of theological and conscientious dissent is indeed impossibly trying to square the circle. Justin Welby famously told Giles Fraser that the answer was to “just look at the circle and say it’s a circle with sharp bits on it.” The problem is that now some people have made clear the circle needed sharpening up before they could see it as a square and vote for it, while others in turn seem determined to insist that all existing sharp bits must be smoothed out. In finding a way forward, Catholic and evangelical opponents need, I think, to be more realistically honest about the messiness that already exists. Anglican orders are currently not recognised by Rome and other churches and so any desired sacramental assurance is already less than certain. Oaths are already taken which acknowledge a woman as “the only supreme governor … in spiritual and ecclesiastical things as well as in temporal” (italics added) and all male bishops hold “the said bishopric as well the spiritualities as the temporalities thereof only of Your Majesty.” Is there then not more “wriggle room” possible than opponents have allowed thus far? Can they in considering what would be “adequate provision” look to minimise rather than maximise the potential genuine conscientious difficulties that could result with the reality of women bishops they now say they recognise as inevitable? Those of us supporting women as bishops, rather than simply pushing on regardless, need in turn to engage much more sympathetically with the real problems this will create for many fellow Anglicans. It may be that requires doing what we have so far failed to do: reconsidering the nature of episcopacy and in particular the phenomenon of mono-episcopacy. The archbishops’ attempt to develop a model of co-jurisdiction is unlikely to work as originally presented. Its approach though could be developed to move to a more corporate, shared,

collegial understanding of episcopal oversight involving both men and women, just as priests have had to transition to the reality of team ministry in parishes. That may not only prove good for the church as a whole, including its bishops, but perhaps could provide the “circle with sharp bits on it” that we so desperately need if we are to find a way forward

together that allows all loyal Anglicans to flourish across our theological traditions. The Rev. Andrew Goddard, associate director of the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics and tutor at Trinity College, Bristol, is the author of Rowan Williams: His Legacy, out this month from Lion Hudson.

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Trust Must Be Earned
I believe that Mark Chapman and Andrew Goddard are largely correct in their analysis that a breakdown of trust within the church, and especially trust in the bishops, has been both a cause and an effect of the debacle over women in the episcopate, and is reflected in discussions over a number of other issues. This is, perhaps, hardly surprising, since the bishops cannot agree between themselves over almost any issue of current controversy, and it has been suggested that they do not always trust each other either. Most of us long for bishops whom we can truly trust with “the oversight of the faith and discipline of the church,” but, as Chapman points out, such trust has to be earned. Were it possible to be certain that bishops, both now and in the future, would always share Goddard’s genuine respect for those with whom he does not agree on the issue of women’s consecration as bishops, then a much higher degree of trust would be possible. As Andrew points out, however, many within the church (including some present, and no doubt future, bishops) dismiss opponents of women in the episcopate as “misogynistic, prejudiced, and discriminatory,” which is hardly a basis for trust, and has only further convinced those who voted against the draft legislation that they were quite right to do so. During General Synod’s debate, Bishop Justin Welby promised that, as Archbishop of Canterbury, he would ensure that the commitment to “respect” was adhered to, but unfortunately, despite his goodwill, he has no power to keep such a promise. A significant number of those who voted against the draft legislation on women in the episcopate were, in fact, supporters of women as bishops, who were nonetheless dissatisfied with the accommodation provided to opponents. I myself, while I am opposed in principle to women in the
26 THE LIVING CHURCH • January 20, 2013

episcopate, would not die in a ditch over the question, and will be able to receive their ministry (just as I already receive the ministry of women as priests) without personally requiring any accommodation. I am, however, deeply concerned that the consecration of women as bishops without adequate accommodation for opponents will put pressure on and significantly marginalise those who cannot accept the development, most of whom hold orthodox positions on other issues. Andrew charges that I refer to concerns that the various proposals for accommodation would make women “second-class bishops” without responding to those concerns [TLC, Dec. 23]. The archbishops’ amendment on co-ordinate jurisdiction was precisely designed to find a way around that problem, but the General Synod rejected it, and the suspicion remains that some members of Synod would vote against anything which did not leave the consciences of the opponents at the mercy of the bishops. Tom Sutcliffe, a lay member of General Synod from the very liberal diocese of Southwark who strongly supports women in the episcopate but equally strongly opposed the draft measure, also pointed out that, in practice, women as bishops can never have exactly the same status as their male counterparts because there will always be significant numbers of people within the church who simply do not accept the validity of the women’s episcopal orders or their ministry, and no legislation passed by the General Synod can change that fact. One woman priest, speaking against the draft measure in the Oxford Diocesan Synod debate, said that the women who would be bishops ought to be more selfsacrificing in their approach to episcopal office. Andrew questions the viability of

“putting in place structures which authorise [opponents] to deny women are bishops in the church of which they are part,” but such structures are already in place to accommodate those who cannot accept women’s priestly orders, and one of the reasons why the Church of England did not decide to consecrate women as bishops at the same time as they were consecrated as bishops is that it is far more messy and difficult to put in place such arrangements in relation to bishops. In fact, I share much of Andrew’s disquiet at this sort of thing, and I wish we were not in this mess. A wiser church might have avoided the mess by not proceeding at all with an innovation with wide-ranging theological and ecclesiological implications, to which a substantial minority of its members could not assent. (Indeed, had a two-thirds majority in every House been required at earlier stages of the process rather than only at the end, it is quite likely that we would not have done so, since even the principle of women as bishops did not achieve a two-thirds majority in the House of Laity.) We are, however, past that point. As Andrew mentions, some proponents of women in the episcopate are resting their hopes on a rout of traditionalists in the next General Synod elections, due to take place in 2015. They will not, of course, be the only ones campaigning. Prudence Dailey Oxford, England

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