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Category - "Bishops":

Who’s Queen? – & Is She Not Also A Bishop?: John Adams

John Adams is the editor of parenting website He has accepted an invitation from Lay Anglicana to leave the safety zone of parenting and write a guest post about the recent Synod vote about women bishops.

Like many, I watched with disbelief when Synod voted against women bishops the other day. I believe there’s compelling evidence in Romans that women held senior positions in the early Church. If women were considered good enough 2,000 years ago, why not now?

As I got thinking about the vote, something blindingly obvious struck me. Oddly it was something I haven’t seen mentioned by any commentators. My argument is thus; by the very nature of her role as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, is Queen Elizabeth II not a female bishop in all but name? Let me be brave and state that if you accept my argument, last week’s vote was completely redundant.

Stick with me here for a second. As Supreme Governor, Queen Elizabeth has the power to appoint bishops. Okay, okay, so she does it on the advice of the Prime Minister but the fact remains that the Church’s male bishops have all been appointed by a woman since 1952.

You can, of course, take this argument back much, much further. The first female leader of the Church of England was Henry VIII’s daughter Queen Mary I who took on the role in 1553 and she was followed by Henry’s other daughter Elizabeth I in 1559.

The power and influence of the monarch on the CofE may have ebbed and flowed over the years. The fact remains that women have held the most senior position on and off for almost 500 years.

I may be mistaken, but I don’t ever recall the Laity questioning the authority of the monarch. If the laity accepts the authority of both male and female monarchs, and the monarch appoints bishops, how can the Laity vote against female bishops? I shall leave you with that thought.

John Adams,

“A Very Significant Tipping Point”: The Revd Rosemary Lain-Priestley


Okay, well, my thoughts are very much a work in progress and others have surely voiced them in their own way already, but for what it’s worth …


Essentially I think that this is a very significant tipping point. It was just so shocking to be in the public gallery and witness the result of the vote. The feeling of devastation was palpable. The message to women – lay and ordained, within and beyond the Church – is unequivocally negative and deeply undermining.


The claim that this was all about the provision not the principle rings pretty hollow to me. People had had 12 years, since the motion was first proposed, to say what they wanted about the provision – and everything had been said. Nothing new was voiced at Synod on that issue, absolutely nothing. The Legislative Drafting group had heard it all before via several hundred submissions from groups and individuals, and had bent over backwards, and backwards again, and backwards again, to find the best possible way forward for everyone. So to hear people in Synod promise that if the Measure was defeated they would get round a table and talk about finding a solution – as though the debate had only begun on Tuesday – then tell the media afterwards that there was ‘no provision’ for those who cannot accept women bishops, was just astounding.


At the end of the day the circle can’t be squared. Conservative evangelicals who believe that women cannot be in authority over men (and this is NOT what most conservative evangelicals believe, it’s the view of SOME people from that tradition) will never accept a Measure that allows a female diocesan bishop to delegate authority to an alternative bishop. For them the authority is still delegated, and delegated from a woman, so it’s not satisfactory. Anglo Catholics (again it’s only some Anglo Catholics) who do not believe it’s possible for women to be ordained at all are also asking to be kept more than one arm length’s away. Both positions require a ‘church within a church’ – and that’s just not Anglican and not the CofE. It doesn’t work that way. It never has.


Meanwhile this has exposed serious issues with our governance structures because 42 out of 44 dioceses voted for the Measure, but the General Synod voted against. 75% of laity on Diocesan Synods voted in favour, but in General Synod only 64%. That doesn’t stack up. Especially as the Measure had been amended between those votes to offer more provision for those who are against.


I don’t know what we do about any of this but I do know that women clergy are getting sympathetic handling in the media, and many, many messages of support from those to whom they minister, from people across the world, and from lay men and women want to say ‘not in my name’; that there’s a spirit of incredulity and shock, some very deep anger and hurt, but overall a renewed conviction that whatever a minority may think, we are called to serve God in the three-fold ministry of the Church and that until we are able to contribute as bishops the CofE is impoverished and less than whole – as some bishops have so eloquently said.


Finally I am astounded at the resilience and faith of so many I know who have simply got out of bed every morning since the vote and got on with the job that they do so well, serving communities up and down this nation with their usual spirit of generosity, wisdom, commitment and grace. And that will not stop, ever. And we are not going away, or leaving the Church we love to a minority who seem to care for only certain parts of it. In the spirit of Anglicanism and because we are called, we will stay.


There has been much outpouring of reason and emotion since Tuesday on social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter. This was a comment of Rosemary’s on Facebook, which I felt at once should not be left to disappear under subsequent layers. She kindly agreed to let me put it here in the form of a guest blog post. Thank-you Rosemary.

The illustration is by Simone Conti via Shutterstock.

Sackcloth And Ashes From the Laity: What Next?

What a day!

Sunt lacrimae rerum.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15

Add your own favourite quote for these moments.

Our grateful thanks to those who tried

Heading this list is our anonymous champion (we presume male), the Church Mouse, who rustled up the Yes2WomenBishops petition and got us all to sign, and got us to get all our friends to sign. Thank-you WATCH, who have been keeping watch through long years of seemingly endless nights. I am not attempting to name names, because they are legion. You know who you are, and we know who some of you are, and we just want to thank you for doing all that you did. It nearly worked!

Never glad confident morning again?

But, however we comfort ourselves, the House of Laity in the Church of England has today committed a blunder which will cost the Church dear. It will cost the new Archbishop of Canterbury, threatening to turn him into an Ancient Mariner stalked by an albatross even before the enthronement. It will cost the Bishops who, at 44 votes in favour, 3 against and 2 abstentions, mirrored the vote in their dioceses. It will cost the House of Clergy who, though less overwhelmingly, supported the motion by 148 in favour, 45 against and with no abstentions. And it will cost the House of Laity itself, who by voting 132 in favour, 74 against and with no abstentions, bring into question the degree to which they are representative of their dioceses. If you are a lay person in the Church of England, this is what has just been done in your name. Please take a moment to consider whether there is anything more you could or should have done to prevent this outcome. And then let us bury our heads in Aslan’s mane, like Lucy, and seek comfort there.

The Micawber Perspective

But having wept, it is time to reflect that it could (just) have been very much worse. You remember Micawber on the subject of annual income –

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

Yes, we are in misery. But there is only a shilling in it (5p in new money!). If 6 lay members had voted the other way (or abstained) the motion would have passed. This is of course maddening, but it is also ground for hope. We only have to tweak a few votes to change this.

What is to be done?

I don’t know. This is where you come in. I suggest that, since it was the laity that got us into this mess, it is to some extent up to the laity to try and get us out of it.  Off the top of my head (and I haven’t even had a chance to sleep on this):

  • We could begin by analysing the lay vote – what proportion of those who voted against were actually in favour of women bishops, but feel that the amended measure was discriminatory? Secondly, what proportion are implacably against women bishops on principle? I suggest we can work with the first group, but it is pointless to waste time on the second.
  • My understanding of what ++John Sentamu said is that the next move is up to the House of Laity: General Synod can discuss it again whenever the HOL agrees to reconsider. (Did I get that bit right – maybe not?). I am pretty sure he is not thinking of waiting for 10 years.
  • The next elections for GS will be in 2015 – we could work to ensure that more people to our way of thinking put themselves up as candidates.
  • We could talk to those who are in favour of women bishops but against the measure whether they might agree to abstain (only 2 abstentions altogether).
  • The Bishops are apparently meeting tomorrow to discuss what to do next – this is a hopeful sign as it may indicate that they will try and turn things around (for once I am grateful for the machinations of the princes of the Church!)

Please let us have your thoughts and  ideas in the comments. Please, please.


Important Appendix – with thanks to Lou Henderson for flagging it up:

GS Misc 1034

Consecration of Women to the Episcopate: Future Process: Note from the Secretary General

3. If the Measure is rejected the effect of Standing Order 61(d) is that it cannot be considered again on the First Consideration Stage in the same form until a new Synod comes into being unless the Presidents, the Prolocutors and the Chairman and ViceChairman of the House of Laity give permission for such a motion to be moved and make a report in writing to the Synod setting out a summary of the case for reconsideration and their reasons for giving such permission.
4. If the Measure is rejected on 20 November it will, in the first instance, be for the House of Bishops and the Archbishops‟ Council to consider how best to test the mind of the General Synod on what should happen next. In addition there are Diocesan Synod Motions for the General Synod to consider on the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993 and the Ordination of Women to the Episcopate. The Business Committee agreed to „park‟ these until the conclusion of the current legislative process.
William Fittall
Secretary General
October 2012
Published by the General Synod of the Church of England


The Phoenix image is by DVARG via Shutterstock. Somehow it seemed a good symbol of any attempt to rescue something from the ruins!

Church of England Bishops: John Pritchard

It seems safe to assume that Bishop John Pritchard wrote his own biographical note on the diocesan website, which I quote by way of illustration that here is a perfectly serious churchman who wishes us to think he does not take himself too seriously:

John Pritchard was born in Salford (under the shadow of Manchester United floodlights), the son of a clergyman. He was determined not to be ordained himself as there was no money in it and you rarely saw your father. He went to Arnold School, Blackpool and then read Law at St Peter’s College, Oxford. While at Oxford he met his future wife, Wendy, who was doing a Maths degree. His summer job was as a Blackpool tram conductor and he has therefore seen the Illuminations more times than anyone could reasonably want.

Whilst at Oxford John recognised a calling to ordained ministry and he went on to take qualifications in theology at Oxford, Cambridge and Durham. He was ordained in 1972.

The Crockford’s entry is as follows:
+PRITCHARD, The Rt Revd John Lawrence. b 48. St Pet Coll Ox BA70 MA73 Dur Univ MLitt93. Ridley Hall Cam 70. d 72 p 73 c 02. C Birm St Martin 72-76; Asst Dir RE B & W 76-80; Youth Chapl 76-80; P-in-c Wilton 80-88; Dir Past Studies Cranmer Hall Dur 89-93; Warden 93-96; Adn Cant and Can Res Cant Cathl 96-02; Suff Bp Jarrow Dur 02-07; Bp Ox from 07.

He received a Certificate in Pastoral Theology at Ridley Hall, Cambridge. He was ordained as a priest in 1972. From 1972 to 1976 he served as a curate at St Martin in the Bull Ring, Birmingham and, from 1976 to 1980, he was Youth Chaplain and Assistant Director of Education in the Diocese of Bath and Wells. In 1980 he became priest in charge of WiltonTaunton. From 1988 he was Director of Pastoral Studies at Cranmer Hall, Durham and, from 1993, the college’s warden. In 1996, he became Archdeacon of Canterbury and a canon residentiary of Canterbury Cathedral. He was consecrated as suffragan Bishop of Jarrow in January 2002.

On 11 December 2006 it was announced that Pritchard would become the 42nd Bishop of Oxford. Having taken office at his confirmation-of-election in London on 23 March 2007, he began his ministry in the diocese on 8 June 2007 after a service of inauguration at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.

Bishop John entered the House of Lords in 2010. He lists his interests as “education, world development, environment and Camp Ashraf“. He chairs the Church of England’s Board of Education and National Society Council, and became controversial in March this year when launching ‘The Church School of the Future Review‘. The Guardian reported: Pritchard also called for the Christian culture and ethos in Anglican schools to be protected “against a rising tide of strident opposition” and the “onset of so-called ‘aggressive secularism’.” The Humanist Blog reacted predictably:

In some ways, the news is hardly surprising – religion uses religious schools to evangelise shock horror! – but for those atheist or agnostic parents who send their parents to a Church of England school because they don’t really have a choice, an evangelisation push is unlikely to be a welcome development. Church of England schools are often seen as offering a fairly mild religious education but, if the Bishop of Oxford has his way, that could be about to change. And if does, the Church may find that more people start to question why it has control of large numbers of publicly-funded schools.

In 2008, he supported the application by Muslims in Oxford to broadcast the adhan from the minaret of a mosque. As a result, he received hostile comment and letters of complaint. Still, in the words of King Umberto I after a failed assassination attempt by an anarchist, ‘ce sont les risques du métier’ (these are the hazards of the profession).

It makes a change: the Rt Rev John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford, has reportedly been sent death threats by outraged so-called Christians for supporting local Muslims’ application to broadcast a daily call to prayer from the minaret of their mosque in the city. The application has been strongly opposed by local evangelicals. One of the letters called for the bishop to be beheaded. Stephen Bates, The Guardian, 12 Mar 2008

His wider responsibilities include chairing the Church of England’s Board of Education and being episcopal spokesperson on education in the House of Lords. He is also President of St John’s College, Durham and on the Trustees of Church Army, SPCK and St George’s House, Windsor.


Bishop John is a prolific writer, and has had the following books published by SPCK:

Practical Theology in Action (1996/2006), The Intercessions Handbook, (1997/2011), Beginning Again (2001/5), Living the Gospel Stories Today (2001), How to Pray(2002), The Second Intercessions Handbook (2004), Living Easter Through the Year(2005), How to Explain Your Faith (2006), The Life and Work of a Priest (2007), Going to Church: A User’s Guide (2009), Living Jesus (2010),  God Lost and Found (2011)


The Wikipedia entry describes Bishop John as an Open Evangelical. He presumably voted in favour of the Anglican Covenant, though his diocese as a whole rejected it.  He voted in favour of  adjourning the debate to enable reconsideration of amendment 5.1.c, the position generally taken by  those in favour of women bishops.

Leap in the dark assessment

Bishop John seems an attractive character who is not afraid of controversy.

The C of E: Are All Her Ways Of Gentleness?

And another thing…

The archbishops and bishops of the Church of England are holy men. They have to be holy in order to make the grade. Their eyes have to be fixed on ‘another country, [whose] ways are ways of gentleness and all her paths are peace‘. This makes them qualified to run the Kingdom of Heaven. It does not, unfortunately, make them necessarily fit to run the very human institution of the Church of England. The reason that all those jokes about the bishop and the actress are funny is because of the unworldliness of the archetypal bishop.

Here is the statement of an apparently very holy, but very unworldly bishop. In his diocesan letter for June, the Bishop of Ely writes:

I was party to the decision of the House of Bishops to make two amendments to the draft legislation to enable women to be ordained as bishops in the Church of God. I wholly supported the clarification about the derivation of episcopal authority from ordination. I am sure that the intention of the other amendment was to provide more secure clarification of the terms on which a male bishop would be chosen by a diocesan bishop to serve parishes asking for such extended care. This may now make it possible for some more conservative members of the General Synod to vote for the legislation if it advances that far.

I fully appreciate, however, that there is a difference between intention and effect. The draft legislation was already a compromise and enshrined further discrimination against women. The amendment has created great hurt among many [although it has given hope to others].

Any army officer, politician, teacher or manager would throw up their hands in horror at this naïvety. If you hope to ‘manage’ measures through General Synod and eventually Parliament, it simply will not do to say that you did not take the likely effects of your action into account. If I have not been offensive enough already, let me put it even more simply: those amending the measure, drafted with exquisite care to enable as many as possible to sign up to it, without properly considering whether their intervention was likely to be helpful, must be stupid, wicked or intent or destroying the measure. One bishop may be wicked, but I cannot believe that they could have taken a collectively wicked decision. So the unanswered question is whether they are stupid (unworldly, if you prefer the more polite term) or bent on destroying the measure. Every member of the Church of England will have to decide the answer to this for him- or herself.

In the face of this ‘unworldliness’, a measure of worldly wisdom would seem to be the only chance of escape from perdition. Let us look back to classical times for our inspiration. What we need is Ulysses, a master of strategy, and his Trojan Horse, defined neatly in Wikipedia as  “any trick or stratagem that causes a target to invite a foe into a securely protected bastion or space.” It is interesting to me that Tiepolo must have had the present situation in mind when he painted my illustration: the men are all pushing the horse into Troy for all they are worth, pulled by the few women bishops that have already been appointed. Every school boy and girl knows what happens next – under cover of dark, swarms of women bishops emerge from the belly of the beast to ensconce themselves in the citadel.

What worries me is that women already in leadership positions in the Church are showing signs, not just of holiness, but also of unworldliness. Principled, noble, high-minded, yes. Prepared to sully their hands and stoop to low cunning to win the day? Possibly not.

“Say not the struggle naught availeth, the labour and the wounds are vain, 
The enemy faints not, nor faileth, and as things have been they remain.
If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars; it may be, in yon smoke conceal’d, 
Your comrades chase e’en now the fliers, and, but for you, possess the field.
For while the tired waves, vainly breaking, seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making, comes silent, flooding in, the main.
And not by eastern windows only, when daylight comes, comes in the light; 
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly! But westward, look, the land is bright!”
‘The Procession of the Trojan Horse’  (1773) by Giovanni Tiepolo (1727-1804) via Wikimedia under CCL

Women Bishops: Just Cut the Gordian Knot!

This is beginning to feel like the most drawn-out decision in history. Will the Church of England finally allow women to become bishops on an equal footing with men? You tell me – after yesterday’s press release, no one has been able to decide what it really means in practice. Nancy Wallace has blogged about it, and recommends Unshaun Sheep’s (very creditable attempt) at translation into plain English.

So far, the inference which I draw (possibly mistakenly of course) is that the obfuscation is deliberate. There is an interesting paper on the use of ambiguity in peace treaties, which perhaps the cogitating bishops are aware of. And there is the image of the duckrabbit, which can be seen either as a rabbit, or as a duck, but not both simultaneously. So is the Church’s new position that of a duck or a rabbit? You decide. But bear in mind that your neighbour may decide it means the opposite, and will have every bit as much justification for his or her point of view as you do yours.

It becomes more important than ever to choose an Archbishop of Canterbury who will give a steer as to how this whole muddle will be interpreted in practice. If the Church has decided (as it seems to have done) that cutting the Gordian knot is likely to ruffle too many feathers, then the raising of women to the episcopate will have to be managed by sleight of hand and fudge. Of course, some delight in these arts, and it is undeniable that the Church has had plenty of practice over the years.

We (ie ‘all right-thinking people’!) desperately need the next Archbishop of Canterbury to be in whole-hearted favour of women bishops. The website of Women And The Church (WATCH)  preserves the anonymity of the bishops who voted against by listing only the numbers of bishops in each diocese and the way they voted, so we cannot simply use their site to eliminate the bishops who voted against. One of those who did, was the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres. However, if the Daily Mail is to be believed, he has removed himself from consideration for the post.

Th website ‘Oddschecker’ has a table of tables, with an average of all the bookmakers’ current odds. According to this, and leaving out +London, the top 10 as of today are:

Christopher Cocksworth (Coventry, open evangelical according to wikipedia)

Graham James (Norwich)

John Sentamu (Archbishop of York)

Nick Baines (Bradford)

Tim Stevens (Leicester)

John Inge (Worcester)

Justin Welby (Durham)

John Packer (Ripon and Leeds)

Stephen Croft (Sheffield, open evangelical according to wikipedia)

Professor N T Wright (open evangelical according to wikipedia)


I am afraid I do not know whether any of these bishops were among the few who voted against the elevation of women to the episcopate but suggest that, considering that 42 out of 44 diocesan synods were in favour, it would be very unfortunate if someone against so doing were to become our next Archbishop of Canterbury.

However, a check against the tables on the Modern Church website suggests that all the named bishops voted in favour of the Covenant. (I sincerely hope that this was out of loyalty to the system and Rowan Williams, rather than any deeply held conviction). Also, from a check of the WATCH tables it seems that the same bishops all voted in favour of women bishops (although I am not sure about the position in York, where the episcopal vote was 3/2)


Illustration:Medieval wall paintings  in Csaroda, Hungary.Attila JANDI /
Postscript: The Bishop of Willesden, Pete Broadbent, has now blogged on the intentions behind the amendments on women bishops here:

The Church In Wales: Leading the Way with the Laity


The Bishop of St Asaph, Bishop Gregory Cameron, speaking at ‘The Future(s) of Anglicanism’, offered us the view from Wales.

The following two anecdotes have nothing to do with Wales, but Bishop Gregory is a gifted raconteur and was no doubt hoping to lighten the mood after a serious session on the Anglican Covenant. He began with a personal reflection on the hazards of communicating with children. Dressed in full episcopal kit and surrounded by a group of little dears (my expression, not the good bishop’s), he swung into his routine, playing to the crowd. His jokes went down well and he sensed a real rapport with this next generation of church-goers. Afterwards, the children were asked what they had enjoyed most about the afternoon: ‘the funny man in the party hat’ came the answer…

His second joke is not really a joke at all. A good man died and was met by St Peter at the Pearly Gates. St Peter offered to take him on a tour of Heaven the following Friday (the day reserved for tours). At the first place they came to, a barbecue was in full swing, with steaks, sausages, chops and kebabs. Everyone seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. ‘This is Catholic Heaven’, explained St Peter. ‘On earth, on Fridays they were only allowed to eat fish’. They walked on and came next to a bar, with a group carousing and enjoying pints of real ale or glasses of vintage claret, according to taste. ‘This is Methodist Heaven’, said St Peter. ‘On earth, they denied themselves all forms of alcohol’. Next they passed  a group of people singing, laughing and shouting out of sheer joie de vivre. St Peter explained: ‘This is Quaker Heaven. On earth they learnt to sit quietly, waiting for the Holy Spirit – now the Holy Spirit encourages them to let rip.’ Finally, they came to a group of people looking inconsolably morose and bored. Our puzzled visitor looked at St Peter questioningly. ‘This is Anglican Heaven’, said St Peter. ‘On earth, there wasn’t anything they weren’t allowed to do…’


But to return to our Welsh sheep…

The Christian presence in Wales was already well-established by the time St. Augustine came to England in 597 and, when Augustine attempted to assert his authority as Archbishop of all Britain in 603, he was told by the Welsh bishops that he had no such authority over them. There are six dioceses in the Church In Wales, which was disestablished in 1920. At disestablishment, all patronage was abolished. Bishops are elected by an electoral college. Twice the number of lay representatives to those of clergy are elected to the Provincial synod (The Governing Body), and lay members are constitutionally a majority in all the councils of the Church in Wales, from Parochial Church Councils to The Governing Body. There were 350 members of The Governing Body, which meets twice a year, but this has now been reduced to 150 (still in stark contrast to the Welsh National Assembly, which has only 60 people to run Wales) with a church membership of 60,000 – 80,000. A commission is currently looking at the structures of the Church In Wales, and there is a move (as in England) to devolve more decision-making to deanery level.


The Laity

At present the proportion of stipendiary clergy to church buildings is about one priest for every two churches. If to this are added self-supporting and retired clergy, there is no pressing need purely on grounds of expediency to train the laity to lead worship. However, the Church In Wales does make a concerted effort to include the laity in leading worship, whether as Licensed Readers or Ordained Local Ministers, regarding this as a desirable end in itself. Bishop Gregory endorses this process, which he hopes will accelerate in future.




The illustration is the coat of arms of the Church in Wales made available under CCL by  Dyfsunctional at en.wikipedia. The photograph of Bishop Gregory is from his consecration and is taken from wikipedia. The illustration of a Welsh church is from Shutterstock.


What Are Bishops For?

Well, what are bishops for? I am not being facetious, or more than usually impertinent, but this question was left hanging in the air around the ‘Futures of Anglicanism’ course. We were privileged to be in the company of two bishops, with the opportunity to talk to them both in the intervals between the formal parts of the course, a privilege which we relished (more later). Bishop Gregory Cameron and Bishop Gayle Harris are particularly fine examples of the genus episcopus.

The question is apparently not as settled as you might think and was raised in a paper for General Synod as recently as February 2009. In ‘The Governance of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion’ (GS Misc 910), Dr Colin Podmore said:

Episcopally Led and Synodically Governed’?
3.21 It is often said that the Church of England is ‘episcopally led and synodically governed’.
Working as One Body commented, ‘This useful and convenient phrase may, however,
tend to conceal the fact that the bishops are part of the synod and that the leadership they
give is in and to the whole synodical body’. That is, in fact, only one of a number of
difficulties with the phrase ‘episcopally led and synodically governed’. (For example,
lay people also occupy leadership positions in the Church and its synods.) Both the
Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Durham have criticized this phrase (not least in the
debate on the resolution to which this paper responds), and it is indeed apt to mislead.
3.22 While it is true that the Church of England’s bishops are charged with governing their
dioceses synodically (ie, with the advice of the representatives of the clergy and laity in
the diocesan synod and the bishop’s council), the phrase can be heard as implying that the
Church of England is governed by synods. As Working as One Body pointed out, synods
are parliaments (legislative and deliberative assemblies); they are not governments. At the
diocesan level, bishops not only lead but also govern and that has implications for the role
of the House of Bishops at the national level.

‘Charlotte‘ commented on ‘Thinking Anglicans’ that Dr Podmore’s paper:

takes a very high view of the office of a bishop and the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Though the authority of a bishop is not to be exercised except synodically, and not without consulting priests and lay people, Podmore’s analysis maintains that priests and lay people do not have authority equal to that of the bishops.


I leave this question hanging in the air (perhaps any readers will have something to say on the general topic in the comments?). The point made in discussion was that the Greek episkopos means ‘overseer’, someone who provides oversight. There are two problems of association with this definition: the first is that, curiously, the noun ‘oversight’ means something that has been overlooked in the sense of forgotten. More seriously, ‘overseer’ to anyone with any knowledge of the slave trade means the man on horseback  who spurred the slaves on sugar plantations onto ever greater efforts by the use of a bullwhip.


My dictionary defines ‘scope’ as meaning:
1. opportunity for exercising the faculties or abilities; capacity for action
2. range of view, perception, or grasp; outlook
3. the area covered by an activity, topic, etc.; range, eg the scope of his thesis was vast

I have some other suggestions for the job description of a good bishop, based of course on ancient Greek (what else?) Eschewing the abomination of neologisms with a Latin prefix and a Greek suffix, I suggest the following improvements on ‘Episcope’,  using Greek prefixes:

  • Amphiscope: Looking at both sides of a question
  • Bathyscope: Being aware of the depths while aspiring to the heights
  • Colonoscope: Detecting bullshit
  • Cryptoscope: Solving life’s little (and big) mysteries
  • Diascope: Making a window into men’s souls
  • Endoscope: Looking remorselessly within every file in the cupboard
  • Extrascope: Looking at the bits the Archdeacon isn’t telling you
  • Gyroscope: Measuring people’s orientation (actually, this is one of the existing job descriptions which could be dropped?)
  • Interscope: Reading between the lines
  • Kaleidoscope: Rejoicing in the rich diversity of God’s creation
  • Megascope: Ensuring the Church does not ignore the obvious
  • Metascope: Keeping an eye on the life beyond
  • Microscope: Remembering the detail
  • Neoscope: Knowing how to introduce the new
  • Oscilloscope: Working out which way the wind is blowing
  • Paleoscope: Valuing the old
  • Periscope: Communicating with the above in order to transmit to those below
  • Polyscope: Wearing many hats (and not just mitres)
  • Prososcope: Looking onwards, pointing the way
  • Stethoscope: Listening out for rumblings in the Body of Christ
  • Telescope: Keeping a watch on the horizon
  • Ultrascope: Linking congregations throughout the diocese, and diocese with diocese

What do you think? What are the essential attributes of a bishop which are missing from this list? (Or have I included some which have no place in the list of episcopal talents?)


Postscript. It seems a propitious moment to be thinking about this question. According to The Church Times of today, 23 September, ‘Meeting heralds new era for episcopacy’

Mary Johnston, a lay member of the General Synod, who heads a grouping of liberal Catholics, was also present. She was one of about 60 participants, who included male and female bishops, priests, and lay people. She said that the day had been “worth while and very positive. “It was exciting that Rowan said he wasn’t out to achieve ‘balance’, but he wants something more profound and prophetic. He wants a reappraisal of what it means to be a bishop.

Mmmm. The blog post is dated the 15th, the conference was on the 19th. I can hear some spoil-sport saying ‘Post hoc, maybe. But not necessarily propter hoc?’

 Post postscript

Dave Walker has drawn the perfect Christmas cartoon in answer to the question ‘What are Bishops For?’.

Note: I am indebted to Savi Hensman for the amended definition of ‘Ultrascope’ and to Grandmère Mimi for the inclusion of Colonoscope and Kaleidoscope, with their respective definitions.

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