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‘House of Bishops’ Declaration and the Five Guiding Principles’: Tim Hind

Statue of Saint Peter by Giuseppe de Fabris

Part of the legislative package that the General Synod passed at their meeting in York in July 2014 is a Declaration by the House of Bishops regarding the way in which they will operate should the legislation come into law in due course. It is predicated on five principles which have gained universal acceptance by all sides of the debate.

In November 2012, the General Synod seemed to implode as it came to terms with what some had been predicting for some time, namely that the vote for the current legislation would be lost because it would fail to get the requisite majority (66.7%) in all three Houses – and particularly in the House of Laity. There were many dire consequences predicted but we need to keep in focus that, should it have been passed, the Code of Practice had yet to be debated – it was only in draft form – and that even with a fair wind and using our pedestrian procedures we would be heading for finalisation in 2015!  In fact we would be likely to be still arguing over the nitty gritty of the Code of Practice. Frightening!

As a result of a bit of creative use of procedures, coupled with the application of the reconciliation ministry from Coventry in the form of facilitated conversations, there has been a dramatic turn around and a successful conclusion to this chapter in the history of the Church of England.

So what is so special about the 5 principles?

The principles can be paraphrased as follows but it is vital that the Declaration & its Annex must be examined in full!

1 The Church of England treats all ordained people, regardless of gender, the same and expects others to do the same

2 All Church of England ministers must accept that this decision has been made clearly

3 the Church of England recognises that this must be set against a backdrop of differing opinions within the Anglican Communion & Ecumenical Partnerships

4 Within the Church of England, the Church is committed to enabling all to flourish within its life and structures

5 There will be no time limit imposed on any pastoral or sacramental provision made to satisfy the 4th principle.

Now it is possible be either sceptical or cynical about these principles. However, those who have a positive outlook will be at worst sceptical – the proof of the pudding argument.

Just after the train crash of 2012, one suffragan standing in during a vacant see said “The mistrust of the bishops in Synod is palpable”. It is clear to almost everyone that there has been a seed change in the House of Bishops since then. If nothing else the introduction of 8 regional women observers has occurred and that in itself has further changed the dynamics within meetings of that House.

So, for me, the idea that a positive declaration from the House of Bishops that they are going to commit to a way of acting out the 5 principles is now believable.

We have a new legislative package, a new commitment that people will be treated fairly, a set if 5 principles that impose duties on all sides of the argument.

We can now be confident, as John Spence said in the final speech from the floor of Synod, that Christ can be restored to his rightful place.

tim hind

Tim Hind

Vice Chair House of Laity General Synod but writing in a personal capacity.

I am very grateful to Tim Hind for agreeing to help us ‘unpack’ the fine print in the agreement to raise women to the episcopate. Whichever wing of the Church you are from, there are principles that make you want to cheer, as well as others that may make you nervous as to how they will work out in practice. But Tim is the best possible guide to this, as he has a ‘feel’ second to none for the workings of the Church of England.

He does not volunteer the information, so I will on his behalf, that he is a member of the Archbishops Council:

“The Archbishops’ Council provides within the Church of England a focus for leadership and executive responsibility and a forum for strategic thinking and planning. Within an overall vision for the Church set by the House of Bishops, the Council proposes an ordering of priorities in consultation with the House of Bishops and the General Synod and takes an overview of the Church’s financial needs and resources.”

Look What They’ve Done To Our Lord…

In the beginning, twelve apostles followed Christ and changed the world. There was neither Jew nor Greek, there was neither slave nor free, there was no male and female, for they were all one in Christ Jesus. They followed the ten commandments, bearing in mind ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one;you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’


That is Christianity in a nutshell. The early Christians did not need a Covenant with each other to tell them what Christianity was – they had it from the source. Inevitably, over the centuries that followed, human institutions sprang up, each with a slightly different understanding of the small print, and some so fixated on the minutiae of ecclesial procedure that there was a danger of losing sight of the wood for the sake of the trees.


A tiny illustration – Gaudete  (and Laetare) Sundays. I spent the first 62 years of my Christian life in complete ignorance of these, in company with most of my fellow mid-candle members of the Church of England, including all of my local congregation. Then, out of the blue, a pink candle appeared in our Advent wreath, with no explanation. The flower ladies were outraged and regarded this as an unforgiveable innovation by the vicar- ‘everyone’ knows church candles are white (well, cream). He then took great delight in explaining his liturgical justification, making the congregation feel both ignorant and rebellious. It was hard to escape the feeling that the delight was in the symbol, rather than in what it symbolised, and this reinforcement of clerical one-upmanship.

The simple church of the top illustration has been transmogrified into the ornate, coral-encrusted structure of the lower picture. Like Ariel’s song:

Full fathom five our Saviour lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
    Die-hards hourly ring his knell:
Hark! now I hear them—Ding-dong, bell.

But ( to get to my point!) we have an opportunity to begin the process of de-scaling, cleaning and polishing this edifice that is the Church of England. Before the end of this month, General Synod will have voted on whether to appoint women as bishops. This is a momentous decision and I pray that the vote will be in favour.

I am of course by no means the only one calling for us to follow the teachings of Galatians – on this occasion I am in the company of Bishop Stephen Cottrell on the specific point:

And the Archbishop of Canterbury has wisely seemed to ask, if he cannot have the Covenant,  for raising women to the espiscopate to be the great achievement of his tenure. Bishop John Inge and Bishop Pete Broadbent have also recorded youtube videos, as have Mark Russell and Rebecca Swinson of the Archbishops’ Council.


The photographs are by Stephan Kerkhofs, via Shutterstock

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:

The Priesthood and the Fatherhood and Motherhood of God

This stained glass depiction of ‘St Swithin’ or, as we call him in Winchester, ‘St Swithun’, is so androgynous (in the Pre-Raphaelite manner) as to be more believably female than male. ‘Her’ rather modest mitre is in becoming contrast to some of the rocket mitres seen on the heads of our more exuberant episcopal overseers, which look as if they might take off for the moon at any moment. (And yes, I do know ‘episcopal overseer’ is tautological – the joys of being one’s own editor!).

Can I make a plea to my fellow members of the Church of England to see our clergy as asexual beings.  I am not suggesting, of course, that our priests (including our bishops) should be asexual. As far as I am concerned, their sex lives can be whatever they wish so long as they do not do it in the street and frighten the horses.  It is not properly of any interest to me.

The clergy exist to channel God to their congregations, and to channel the prayers of their parishioners to God. They are there to teach us about the life and teachings of Christ. They are there to encourage us to read the bible. They are there to foster the body of Christ  in their communities.

If you start from first principles, not by reference to the history of the Church, there seems no good reason why these functions cannot be equally well fulfilled by men or women: to put it bluntly, whether one’s genitalia are external or internal is irrelevant to one’s ministry. I wrote previously about Aristophanes as the original ‘complementarian’. This word has unfortunately been co-opted by those who believe that the role of each sex in the Church is biblically ordained. I suggest instead that God would expect his followers to agree with Marx: ‘from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs‘. Twenty years of ministry by women in our Church is all the QED anyone could need that the distribution of spiritual gifts is not dictated by gender.

I beseech you, Archbishops Council and General Synod, to remember the words of Dame Julian of Norwich, pray to the Almighty, take a deep breath and step out into the future:


I saw no difference between God and our substance, but saw it as if it were all God. And yet my understanding accepted the fact that our substance is in God; that is to say that God is God and our substance is a creature in God. For the Almighty Truth of the Trinity is our Father, for he made us and preserves us in himself; the deep wisdom of the Trinity is our mother, in whom we are enclosed; the lofty goodness of the Trinity is our Lord, and in him we are enclosed and he in us…

And thus in our creation God Almighty is our natural father, and God all-wisdom is our natural mother, with the love and goodness of the Holy Spirit. These are all one God, one Lord. In the knitting and joining he is our real, true spouse and we are his loved wife and his fair maiden. ….

In our Father Almighty we have our preservation and our bliss, as far as our natural substance, which we have from our creation without beginning, is concerned. In the Second Person we have our preservation, in wit and wisdom, as far as our sensuality, our restoring and our saving are concerned. For he is our mother, brother and saviour. And in our good Lord the Holy Spirit we have our rewarding and our harvest for our living and our bitter labour, endlessly surpassing all that we desire in his marvellous courtesy from his lofty, plenteous grace.

All our life is in three modes. In the first is our being. In the second we have our increasing. And in the third we have our fulfilling.

The first is nature. The second is mercy. The third is grace.

….The Second, most precious, Person, who is our substantial mother has now become our sensual mother, for we are double by God’s making, that is to say, substantial and sensual. Our substance is the higher part that we have in our father, God Almighty. The Second Person of the Trinity is our mother in nature, in our substantial making. In him we are grounded and rooted, and he is our mother by mercy in our sensuality, by taking flesh.

Thus our mother, Christ, in whom our parts are kept unseparated, works in us in various ways. For in our mother, Christ, we profit and increase, and in mercy he reforms and restores us, and by virtue of his passion, death, and resurrection joins us to our substance. This is how our mother, Christ, works in mercy in all his beloved children who are submissive and obedient to him….

Our substance is whole in each person of the Trinity, which is one God. Our sensuality is only in the Second Person, Christ Jesus, in whom are the Father and the Holy Spirit. In him and by him we are powerfully taken out of hell, and out of the wretchedness on earth, and are gloriously brought up into heaven and blissfully joined to our substance, increased in richness and nobility by all the virtue of Christ and by the grace and working of the Holy Spirit.” (pages 187-189)

“[Christ] Our natural mother, our gracious mother, because he willed to become our mother in everything, took the ground for his work most humbly and most mildly in the maiden’s womb…. Our high God, the sovereign wisdom of all, arrayed himself in this low place and made himself entirely ready in our poor flesh in order to do the service and the office of motherhood himself in all things.

“To motherhood as properties belong natural love, wisdom and knowledge – and this is God. For though it is true that our bodily bringing forth is very little, low, and simple compared to our spiritual bringing forth, yet it is he who does the mothering in the creatures by whom it is done.

The natural loving mother, who recognises and knows the need of her child, takes care of it most tenderly, as the nature and condition of motherhood will do. And continually, as the child grows in age and size, she changes what she does, but not her love. When the child has grown older, she allows it to be punished, breaking down vices to enable the child to receive virtues and grace.

This work, with all that is fair and good, our Lord does in those by whom it is done. Thus he is our mother in nature, by the working of grace in the lower part of love for the higher. And he wills that we know it, for he wills to have all our love fastened to him.

In this I saw that all the debts we owe, by God’s command, to fatherhood and motherhood by reason of God’s fatherhood and motherhood, are repaid in the true loving of God. This blessed love Christ works in us. And this was showed in everything, especially in the noble, plenteous words, where he says, ‘I am what you love.’ ”




The stained glass window depicting St Swithun was made available via Shutterstock under licence. Unfortunately, there are no details of where this window is (can any of our readers help?)

The statue of Dame Julian is by David Holgate and is at Norwich Cathedral. The extract from her writings is of course part of ‘Revelations of Divine Love’.

Finally, if you think this post has echoes, yes you are right. It complements Chris Fewings’ post of 15 July ‘Love Divine, All Loves Embracing‘; that is to say the topics are similar but different.

Episcopal Ministry: the effect of the amendments on the Church of England as a whole

A woman parish priest has kindly allowed me to turn her comment into a ‘right to reply’ blog post. Her concerns, as you will see, are with the episcopate as a whole, not just the position of women in the Church, so I have chosen this mural of an Umbrian bishop to illustrate some thoughts about the overall effects that these two amendments would have:

I fear I disagree with your conclusion about this sorry mess. And this is not from a petulant impulse to “show the bishops and make them sorry” because we shall (nearly) all be sorry if we do not have women bishops some time after 2014. The Church will be the loser for so many gifts are not currently available to the bishops. Listen to experienced women clergy speaking and preaching.
But we need to take the views of people like Janet Henderson very seriously because she is a senior ordained woman who works as part of a diocesan senior staff and so knows what is possible in that context, and what passing this apparently innocuous amendment would do to the ministry of bishops from now on – not just women either. Some have argued that this is “just about women” – take care with this argument as it is then clear discrimination which Parliament has also said that it is very concerned about if it is in the measure (the law of the land) itself. But experience from 1993 has taught that what may have been granted through generosity for the sake of the unity of the church will be taken and used to set up ever more separate groupings within the church which share none of the characteristics of church: recognition of each other’s ministry and ordination, one bishop for one diocese and the eucharist.
It may be possible (and is) for a woman parish priest to have a fulfilled ministry in her parish and win over those who at first were concerned about a woman. It’s different on a national level where your ministry takes you into all the parishes of a diocese (and worth noting that, after a comment on another blog, there have been women archdeacons in the C of E for over 10 years now and the (female) Archdeacon of Canterbury deputises for the Archbishop when installing new diocesans in their cathedrals!!)

But there are two real issues: one is how we live with difference –the same sort of issue that was underneath all those covenant debates. Women wanted a single clause measure – one that just said women can be bishops – and then leave sorting out how to include those who found this hard or impossible to local solutions – which would include extended Episcopal oversight and everything that is in the legislation and probably more besides. This is the way of trust,. reconciliation and relationships which is at the heart of Christianity. It is exactly why a lot of people were so concerned with the 4th section of the covenant. It became clear in the debates 2 years ago that the C of E was not ready for this sort of trust ( sad, but realistic) and so WATCH and others accepted the legislation that has now been debated through the diocese – but key to this acceptance and compromise was that there would be nothing in the measure itself that implied that a woman was not a bishop on the same terms as men, nor the theology of taint. The amendment about requesting a bishop on grounds of theological conviction once more opens the door to this sort of discrimination being in the legislation and it matters because we know from experience that it will be used to undermine the ministry of women bishops (in other workplaces this would probably be called bullying) . That there would be no discrimination in the measure itself was also one of the criteria of General Synod when it asked for legislation to be prepared.

Which is the second issue – the way that over the last two year the House of Bishops has continually tried to get this sort of ambiguity into the primary legislation (ie the law of the Church and the land) undermining the processes of Synod and the votes of the dioceses. Two years ago Synod debated the legislation which was sent to the dioceses. The legislation had bee prepared by a revision committee which had spent more than their allotted time on it because it was so difficult, but finally produced legislation which the majority supported (not all, but then all views were represented on the Committee–and both sexes and laity as well as clergy) Any law which has not been subject to this sort of revision potentially contains unforeseen outcomes because it has not been subject to scrutiny. The assumption is that all possible amendments wil be scrutinised by this committee. But after this report was published, the 2 archbishops produced their notorious “Archbishops’ amendment” which failed in the House of Clergy (and was voted against by nearly all the women clergy). When the legislation went round the dioceses many dioceses debated a “following amendment” which requested something like the Archbishop’s amendment – 30 of the dioceses rejected this. General Synod again debated whether this should go back into the legislation in February – again, rejected, this time in all houses. And always for the same reason – that this would introduce discrimination into the Measure itself. So this time the House of Bishops used the loophole that allows some very minor amendments (not of substance) to be made to a measure after Final Drafting – the time when all amendments are finally debated – to bring back something that once again brings ambiguity over the validity of women’s of orders into the legislation itself.

Is it surprising that women do not trust the bishops to fully support any woman who might be made a bishop if she is treated in a discriminatory way by some of the parishes in her diocese – let alone her colleagues? And that women clergy are not willing to vote for a law with even a whiff of the theology of taint?

Does The Road Wind Uphill All The Way?

Yes, to the very end, concludes Christina Rossetti.


Possibly the best summary of the present pickle of the Church of England over the raising of women to the episcopate is by Janet Henderson,  Archdeacon of Richmond, in A Nettle the Church of England Can’t Seem to Grasp. And there is coverage (of course) on Thinking Anglicans and WATCH (Women and the Church). Bishop Alan Wilson has blogged sympathetically. All of these make useful background briefing, if you haven’t already read them, for WATCH are now asking for our (immediate) help:

 The National WATCH Committee is meeting on 31st May to work through various choices and agree our strategy for the next six weeks: please help us to make wise and informed decisions.Please send responses by email to or by post to the WATCH Office, St John’s Church, London SE1 8TY by Wednesday 30th May if possible

Well, what is to be done?

As someone said recently, it is tempting to go for the Samson, rather than the Samuel, solution. I think most of us feel a terrible urge to ‘do’ an Alice in Wonderland and fling the whole pack of cards in the air.  Cries of pain and outrage, such as Miranda Threlfall-Holmes expressed  in her blog  (reported by The Huffington Post,) are not just understandable, they may do some good in letting it be known how strong are the sentiments behind them.


But, having given vent to our anguish, it is perhaps time to wrap a wet towel around our collective heads, pour a gin or cup of coffee according to taste, and recap our aims, strategy and tactics.


A Pyrrhic Victory?

If we refuse to support the amended measure, there will be no women bishops in the Church of England in the immediate future. Although the issue could be tabled for further discussion at future General Synods, the ‘winning side’ would have no reason to concede defeat and it might take many years to achieve our goal. We would remain in the right, but our victory would be Pyrrhic.


A Hard and Bitter Peace?

The best that is on offer, and it is a bitter pill to swallow, is the provision, newly enshrined in law, that although women may be consecrated bishops, a special order of male bishops, who have been neither ordained nor consecrated by a woman, will be set up in parallel to minister to those who find the idea of a woman bishop unacceptable.


Solomon’s Judgement

A wry joke, this, that we have no similar judgement by a woman in our collective unconscious.

It is an extremely difficult decision, but I recommend that we allow the measure to pass, complete with its two amendments. My reasons are as follows:


  • Although it is not all that we wanted, it is part of what we wanted.
  • We will be in a stronger position to advance our case once we have women in the House of Bishops.
  • Opposition will soften, as it did with feelings against women priests, once people see women bishops in action and get used to the idea.
  • The Church is a seething cauldron at present – the Covenant and the background to it have not disappeared, unfortunately. There are many other demands for change. In that seething cauldron, something may emerge: again, we would be better placed to take advantage of this if we had some women bishops installed.


Finally, I commend to you Dave Walker’s cartoon, which has encouraged me through many a long night of the soul. In the words of Martin Luther King:

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t really matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land





The photographic illustration is by Rechitan via Shutterstock. The cartoon is by Dave Walker and was downloaded from the website under licence. Thank-you Dave: a copy of this sits on my desktop as my daily motivation and encourager!

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