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The Revd Janet Appleby Saves the Day (DV)

Time for a little rapture, I think. Calm, cool and collected Anglican rapture, of course.

Oh, in case you haven’t heard this morning’s news, the Reverend Janet Appleby, a member of General Synod, has come up with a means of extricating the Church from the pit it had dug itself into over women bishops. The Church of England issued a press release yesterday:

The House of Bishops has today by an overwhelming majority settled the text of the legislation to enable women to become bishops in the Church of England. The House of Bishops made clear its desire for the draft legislation to be passed into law when it goes forward for final approval to the Church of England’s General Synod in November.

Archbishop Rowan Williams spoke as follows (you can hear him here)

“…the Bishops have discussed the measure again and are now bringing forward a new text that expresses both our conviction of the need to see this legislation passed and our desire to honour the conscience and contribution of those in the Church of England whose reservations remain.

“It is particularly significant and welcome that the new text emerged not from the House of Bishops itself but rather from a serving woman priest. [my bolding]…

“I am convinced that the time has come for the Church of England to be blessed by the ministry of women as bishops and it is my deep hope that the legislation will pass in November.”

The press release continues:

‘At its meeting in July the General Synod asked the House of Bishops to reconsider a provision in the legislation – Clause 5(1)(c) of the draft measure. The new amendment submitted by the Rev. Janet Appleby during the consultation process received overwhelming support from the House of Bishops in both their discussions and in the final vote. In discussion the Bishops welcomed the simplicity of the new text, its emphasis on respect and the process of dialogue with parishes that it will promote.

The final text proposed by the House of Bishops is:

Substitute for the words in clause 5(1)(c):” the selection of male bishops and male priests in a manner which respects the grounds on which parochial church councils issue Letters of Request under section 3″ ‘


This is extraordinary on at least two counts. First, and of course very important, it should enable us to have ‘women bishops’. This is the first step, of course, in having simply ‘bishops’, but that will have to develop from the first crucial step.

But secondly, looking at it from a lay perspective, the House of Bishops has just handed an area of decision-making over to PCCs, in other words, the laity. In the long run, if I have understood correctly what has happened (and maybe I haven’t?), the hierarchy of the Church of England has agreed to be influenced by what Lord Baden-Powell called ‘the boy’, inverting the normal decision-making pyramid.

Has a chink of light broken through?

So who is the Reverend Janet Appleby? Well, she is delightful. She seemed a little surprised when I telephoned her this morning but agreed that it was indeed her in the above photograph (the one with the dog collar, in case you were wondering!).

Here is Crockford’s:

* APPLEBY, Janet Elizabeth. b 58. Bris Univ BSc80 MSc81 Newc Poly BA90. Cranmer Hall Dur 01. d 03 p 04. C Newc H Cross 03-06; TV Willington from 06; Dioc Ecum Officer from 12. 

Her degrees are in Mathematics and English, two equal loves, apart from her theological degree from Cranmer Hall, Durham. Now in her early fifties, she became a deacon in 2003 and was priested in 2004, only eight years ago.

She is a member of General Synod. After the meeting in July, GS members were  asked for input for the meeting of the House of Bishops which has just been held: seven different options were suggested. Here I think she was helped by her logical brain (the mathematics), her experience as Diocesan Ecumenical Officer, and the fact that she had not been priested for long enough to fail to see the wood for the trees. For whatever reason, she could see that the key was involving the PCCs concerned, on a case by case basis.

Janet, if I may, we hereby award you one of our ‘Lay Anglicana Lollipops from the Laity’ , and our eternal thanks.

Now, General Synod, the House of Bishops have played their part, please please agree the Appleby Amendment in November!

As Bugsy Malone said, You give a little love, you get a little love and it all comes back to you: a vision of November General Synod:

Who Is The Church Of England For?

 Selecting the next Archbishop of Canterbury

I suggest that the Crown Nominations Commission, responsible for choosing the next Archbishop of Canterbury, ask the candidates this question  (Who is the Church of England for?) before proceeding any further with the interview. As well as their answers, the reactions of the candidates may reveal more than they intend. What is your answer? I doubt if it would cause a lay person any problem, but if you ask many clergy this question, they will pause (lost in thought) for a while before responding that the Church exists to serve God.


Classic Pyramidal Structure

An expert on organisational development would take this answer and come up with a proposed structure very like the papacy: a tier of management with God at the top, his vicar on earth (the Pope) next, then the cardinals, bishops and clergy. At the bottom are the lay Catholics in an amorphous mass. The laity, of course, are here represented by the pawns – their function is to support the clergy (and the buildings) and bear their weight.  The structure exists, it would seem, in order to support the Pope and his entourage, who in turn serve God.


The Protestant Management Revolution (The Reformation)

The sixteenth century Protestant movement of northern Europe,  arguably including the Church of England, came about in part because some could no longer accept a human authority figure as the voice of God on earth.

Plenty of Church of England bishops, however, agree with the former Bishop of Durham, Professor N T Wright, that:

A new Archbishop must be allowed to lead. ..Who, after all, is running the Church of England? We have Lambeth Palace, the House of Bishops, General Synod, the Archbishops’ Council, the Anglican Communion Office, and (don’t get me started) the Church Commissioners. How does it all work? In an episcopal church, the bishops should be the leaders. Rowan hasn’t bothered much about structures, but with six hands grabbing at the steering wheel someone now needs to take charge.


A Structure to Serve the ‘People of God’?

I propose a different model, where the Church of England in particular, and the Anglican Communion in general, exist to serve the people of this planet in general, and its adherents in particular. This is based on the ideal put forward by Lord Baden-Powell in the Scouting movement.

The Scoutmaster is the base of a pyramid of shared responsibility and service to the apex of the pyramid; the Scouts. This responsibility (and the attendant authority) flows upward to serve the goal of advancing the aim of scouting.

• Scouts and the youth of the world are the only reason the world Scouting movement exists – and they sit on top of the organization. They are ultimately the most important people in Scouting.

• The volunteers in each National Scout Organization have the greatest influence over the quality of the Scouting programme in their country. These volunteers are responsible for the “care and feeding” of their Scouts and the growth of the Movement.

• The regional volunteers and professional staff are there to provide training, inspiration, and resources that the National Scout Organizations (NSO) need to be effective and successful in their mission.

• And the World Scout Committee, at the bottom of the organization chart, is responsible to provide the resources, vision and global coordination of Scouting around the world, so that the regional leadership and the NSOs can be successful.

I think the job description of the World Scout Committee as being responsible for resources and vision is a good description of the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury. As the Anglican Communion is not a Church, however, it is not appropriate for him to attempt global co-ordination.


The lectionary for today includes Mark 10.42-45:

“And Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercised authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve”


The explanation of the Scouting pyramid is by the Chairman of the World Scout Committee at their 39th World Conference in Brazil in 2011.

I am indebted to Charlie Farns-Barns, a member of the Lay Anglicana Forum and subscriber to this blog, for telling me about the pyramid model

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