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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.”

Archbishop Justin Welby-The Road to Canterbury: Andrew Atherstone

ABCJ 001

Women Bishops

Welby found himself called upon [as Bishop of Durham] to bring reconciliation between hostile factions over the consecration of women as bishops. After years of acrimonious debate and numerous official reports, this development seemed increasingly certain.

As a result, some traditionalists within Durham diocese felt unable to remain within the Anglican family. Most of the congregation at St James the Great in Darlington decided to join the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, established by Pope Benedict XVI to welcome former Anglicans into full communion with Rome while retaining some of their Anglican heritage. The first wave of departures, during Holy Week 2011, saw 10,000 lay people and 60 clergy from across England enter the Ordinariate. The Darlington group were part of the second wave at Lent 2012, led by their parish priest, Ian Grieves, who felt pushed out of Anglicanism by ‘this politically correct Church and liberal agenda which grinds on and on.’  Welby was ‘deeply sad’ at the congregation’s decision but was determined that this parting of friends would be without acrimony. He had known Grieves for 20 years since undertaking a training placement at St James while a student at Cranmer Hall, one of his early encounters with the catholic tradition, and praised his former supervisor as a ‘quite exceptional priest…a teacher of great gifts.’ In a poignant public act of friendship, Welby preached at the congregation’s final mass in February 2012, on the eve of their departure, announcing that ‘This is not a time for apologies. It is a time for repentance…Our repentance is for being part of a church which is in such a state. What do we do now? Bless, not curse.’

Welby’s personal commitment to the consecration of women bishops was not in doubt. In a pastoral letter to his diocese in July 2012 he made it clear that he held these views

as a result of careful studies of the scriptures, and examination of the tradition and ways in which the Church globally has grown into new forms of ministry over the two thousand years of its existence. They are not views gained simply from a pragmatic following of society around us, but are ones held in all conscience and with deep commitment.

At the same time he was ‘passionately committed’ to a theological understanding of the church as a redeemed fellowship, not a self-selecting group.

To put it in crude terms, because God has brought us together we are stuck with each other and we had better learn to do it the way God wants us to. That means in practice that we need to learn diversity without enmity, to love not only those with whom we agree but especially those with whom we do not agree.

Therefore he strongly supported the need for those in conscience theologically opposed to the ordination of women to be ensured a ‘proper place’ in the Church of England, though he acknowledged that it was ‘a difficult square to make into a circle’. In conversation with Giles Fraser, he spoke of ‘a circle with sharp bits on it’. The bishop told his diocesan synod that he personally would ‘spare no effort’ in seeking to find a way for the Church of England to demonstrate, not only in words, that it valued everyone. Behind the scenes he worked actively to bring together the most vocal participants in the debate by creating a safe space for ‘mutual listening’. The aim was ‘reconciliation’ which meant not unanimity or even broad agreement, ‘but the transformation of destructive conflict into constructive conflict’…

(p141) He urged support for the Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure , as finally proposed, believing it to be ‘as good as we can get’. But he lamented the manner in which Anglicans had debated the issue with a ‘fire-fight of words, articles, letters and emails’, drawing parallels with the sectarian violence he had often witnessed in Africa and the Middle East. Followers of Christ, he proclaimed, should behave differently, as ‘reconciled reconcilers’ and a witness to the world. Returning to one of his favourite mottoes, Welby exhorted the Church of England to prove its commitment to ‘diversity in amity, not diversity in enmity’:

The Church is, above all, those who are drawn into being a new people by the work of Christ and the gift of the Spirit. We are reconciled to God and to one another, not by our choice but by his. That is at the heart of our testimony to the gospel.

…This Anglican inclusivity was ‘a foundation stone for our mission in this country and the world more widely.

We cannot get trapped into believing that this is a zero-sum decision, where one person’s gain must be another’s loss. That is not a theology of grace.

Instead of going to war against one another over such issues, the bishop urged that Christians must

carry peace and grace as a treasure for the world. We must be those who live a better way; who carry that treasure visibly and distribute it lavishly.

This book is not the last word on the present Archbishop of Canterbury, nor does it purport to be. It is, however, an excellent preliminary biography written without knowing how the last chapters will be written. Much of the material has already appeared in the press, but Andrew Atherstone has collated well the information available publicly and he has also mined the parish magazines of Southam, where Justin Welby was parish priest. I value particularly the insight that these give into the essence of Archbishop Justin.

I thoroughly recommend this overview of a man who will play a decisive, perhaps historic, role in our beloved Church at a turning point in its history.
(I do feel somewhat like Spike Milligan – wot, no mention of my part in ++Justin’s meteoric rise? ;>) I can certainly claim to be the one to have discovered the link between him and the present Welby baronet, the nephew of Justin’s maternal great-uncle’s wife, and I think I was the first to publish on his Weiler antecedents, just beating the Telegraph to it in the Jewish Chronicle. Ah well, sic transit and all that…)

This extract begins on page 138.

Archbishop Justin Welby

The Road to Canterbury

Andrew Atherstone

published by Darton, Longman and Todd

978 0 232 52994 4
Paperback |160 pp |178 x 110 mm


Rowan Williams retired as Archbishop of Canterbury on 31 December 2012, and the Crown Nominations Commission elected the Rt Revd Justin Welby as his successor, enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral in March 2013.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has an international profile and influence. In this short, lively and informative book, Andrew Atherstone, explores Welby’s life from his formative years, education, and eleven year career in the oil industry to his ministry, as well as his theology and world view, beginning with a concise examination of his writings and how they inform his thinking.

Andrew Atherstone is tutor in History and Doctrine, and Latimer research fellow, at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. He is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and has published Andrew4widely on a number of Anglican personalities such as Charles Golightly (Oxford’s Protestant Spy, Paternoster, 2007), and George Carey.

The Two Integrities: Andrew Phair


These notes, or reflections, come with a massive health warning. I am not a member of Synod; I don’t follow this argument closely in the press and I am quite sure I have got my wires crossed on many issues. But the nature of this web site speaks of securing the views of lay people from the pews of Anglican churches. Well, that sums me up. A very ordinary person sitting in a pew, mystified by what I recently saw at the altar; and the subsequent processes I then went through to make sense of it and to achieve some sort of peace within myself. I feel I can now cope with the behaviour of the traditionalists such that it does not rankle so much and disturb my prayerful approach to the Sacraments.

The Two Integrities

In 1992 an accord was made concerning the ordination of women that those traditionalists who could not accept the decision could remain in the Anglican Church,  would still be valued and would have their own Bishops.

Like many, I applauded the decision to ordain women and could not even conceive of anyone objecting to the change. How naive I was! After that, women became a quite normal presence at the altar. It was one of those moments that sort of passes, an important watershed moment, but nevertheless a passing one. I did not notice the silent, quiet unrest among the traditionalists. I never noticed their refusal to accept consecrated bread and wine from a woman Celebrant. But, when I did notice it (only a few weeks ago) I was incensed. All the usual objections were made (to my wife): how dare they; society has moved on; Jesus welcomed women as much as men; their behaviour is an example of all that is wrong with religion (but not with believing); what about equality between the sexes and so on. I railed against the issue; raised it at a PCC meeting; tweeted on the subject (and got back some helpful, reassuring responses); searched the web and quietly fumed.

With nothing to lose, I tackled one of the said traditional priests and he patiently walked me through the issues and the arguments as he saw it. It was a Damascene moment for me. It certainly reminded me of the merits of listening to all sides of an argument before fulminating in my armchair. Whilst acknowledging his position, I also have to firmly state I am still wholly of a mind that women priests bring many benefits to ministry and I welcome them as Bishops (in other words as equal to men in every regard) within the Anglican church.

But my kindly traditionalist priest-friend helped me to see the importance of being obedient to God’s truth, wherever that might take one. He spoke of it not being about majority votes in Synod or elsewhere but about searching for truth and integrity. In respect to ‘voting’ he argued this cannot apply to all aspects of faith: would I vote for a fascist party even if the majority of people were doing so but which I knew to be wrong? In responding to the inner voice (the Holy Spirit?) we may well be prompted to take an opposing position to the majority. It is clear that the Holy Spirit has guided peoples’ faith journeys down many different expressions from Quakers, to Methodists, to Baptists, to evangelical house churches and so on.  None of us can dogmatically say their church is exclusively the right way. I was clearly demonstrating appalling inflexibility of mind and personal arrogance.

If promises were made in 1992 and since then about protecting and honouring the position of the traditionalist, then why are they now being broken or dismantled? Why are the traditionalists being discriminated against? Are they being squeezed out? I hope not. The Anglican Church is, if nothing else, an amalgam of masses of different forms of expression and none of us has the right to shoehorn everyone into one model, however attractive that sometimes might feel.  I would still want to argue my corner that there is nothing flawed with women priests presiding at the Eucharist; there is nothing lesser about the elements I receive which have been consecrated by a woman and -most importantly- I welcome the ministry they bring.

But my earlier seething has subsided and it served as a reminder of the need to hear all sides of an argument before getting on my high horse. It is clear that outside the UK the Anglican Church may well be more in tune with the traditional approaches, in particular in the African church. What right have I to impose my one-sided beliefs on those who choose to adopt a quite contrary position? The worldwide Church has changed dramatically over 2000 years but the traditionalists argue the male priesthood has been around since the time of Christ. All these issues made me stop and think a little more than a mere knee-jerk response that characterized my behaviour at first.  I would like to think this example has reminded me of the need to show greater tolerance than hitherto.

Will the liberals and evangelicals similarly show greater accommodation to the needs of the traditionalists?


Andrew phairI am becoming increasingly brave at pestering people who express interesting views on twitter to write for Lay Anglicana, and I must thank Andrew Phair for having good-humouredly (and promptly!) succumbed to my blandishments. Andrew sums himself for his twitter profile – @Andrew_Phair – as “Interests in healthcare, politics, literature and justice. Professed Christian often poor exponent. England” (Editor)

The illustration was chosen by me, partly because of the androgynous appearance of the priest.

 Note by editor on ‘The Two Integrities

As a reminder for anyone who has come late to the debate of what ‘the two integrities’ means,  the then Archdeacon of Richmond, the Ven Janet Henderson, summed it up in 2012 – no longer available on her blog, it survives on Kiwianglo’s website:

…For 18 years the Church of England has been trying out an approach that says, in effect, ‘both groups are right’. A lot of us thought we were doing this in the patient expectation that one or other group would eventually become less sustainable. How else are decisions made and people able to move forward? You pray, you argue the rationale, you try things out, you put it to the vote. In the Church of England, we seem now to be saying that however small the number of people who want to be protected from women priests becomes, we will continue to order the life of the church for their benefit and at the expense of all who want to see women in leadership.

Well, I can see that to pass legislation that is completely unacceptable to those who do not want women priests and bishops is a very hard decision to take (and not, at this point, one that is open to Synod) but let’s look at the cost of continuing with this ‘two integrities’ approach

It seriously endangers the coherence of episcopacy in the Church of England. The bishops will be trying to move in two directions at once over a good number of issues to do with gender and the ordering of the church.
It will cause arguments in parishes where there is a divergence of view about women’s ministry, particularly as the ‘supply’ (to use the bishops’ word) of clergy gets smaller.
It makes for a national church that treats women as second class, something parts of the church have to be protected from. How proud of that can we be?
It means that language about ‘taint’ and ‘the unsuitability of women having authority’ will continue to be a norm of church life. (As Desmond Tutu so famously pointed out, what you say about people in fact shapes the possibilities of your behaviour towards them.)
It endorses the notion of different churches within the Church of England needing different types of theological leadership – will other grounds for being able to petition for a different bishop begin to emerge? This leads to chaos!

Conversing with Elizaphanian: Metamorphosis and Stasis

Is there a stable place to rest at the end of the progressive path?

This is the question posed by Elizaphanian (The Revd Sam Norton) on January 25th, and which I have been mulling over ever since. I suggest you read the whole post, but among other things he says the following:

 Western society has embarked upon a radical restructuring of its cultural life in three inter-related issues, to do with homosexuality, marriage and divorce, and the economic role of women. The classical understanding of the church, that sexuality is only to be expressed within a heterosexual marriage, has been widely abandoned…The church has been caught up in this cultural change and is now at risk of opprobrium and worse if it does not, in David Cameron’s ill-chosen words, ‘get with the programme’…The RC stance…has proven workable for thousands of years…Does the progressive, secular, post-Protestant form of Christianity have a destination?…Having said all that, I remain quite open to the idea that the Spirit is genuinely behind all these developments…and I certainly can’t see our society reversing many of them. Yet, as I also see our society as heading down the tubes with great rapidity, I don’t see that latter point as bearing much theological weight. I genuinely don’t know the answer to this, but it is what I am thinking about.

The short answer to the question.

My short answer to this question is ‘No’.

The slightly longer answer

First, it must be said that the question is perfectly understandable, and is widely being asked. The inference is that if the progressive path cannot offer a stable place to rest, it is unreasonable to expect the general public to follow the path.

The question is not a new one, and nor is my answer. Heraclitus, for one, got there first: All is flux, nothing stays still or, in other words, Nothing endures but change.

Differing roles of God and the Church

Since the dawn of time, one of the reasons people have believed in the gods is that life seems full of capricious change. One or more supreme beings seem to offer the only possibility of stability. We pray: ‘ protect us through the silent hours of this night, so that we, who are wearied by the changes and chances of this fleeting world, may repose upon thy eternal changelessness‘.

Over the years, the Church has seemed to represent the deity in offering a haven of stability. It is easy to see how God and the Church have become confused in the psyche of churchgoers, but the Church is a human institution and is not in a position to offer ‘eternal changelessness’. To do so would be like trying to ride a bicycle without moving – you would soon fall off.

There is no advice in the Bible about how to manage the Church after 2,000 years of history (unless you know otherwise?). St Paul’s epistles are full of advice to churches which are newly set-up and, although much of it still applies to us, the task that we face in the 21st century is, I suggest, that of enabling the mighty, rushing wind of the Holy Spirit to blow through the dusty corners  of the Church, and not to try and keep it out by means of draught excluders.

Does the Holy Spirit offer a stable place to rest?

Possibly. From time to time.  But ‘he is not a tame lion, you know‘. And my hunch is that, after a very long period in which the Church has tried to plug the leaking dike and hold back the sea, in a period of stasis, the time has now come for metamorphosis.’Not for ever by still waters, would we idly rest and stay. But would smite the living fountains from the rocks along our way.‘ Psalm 104:10 He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains.Psalm 105:41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out; like a river it flowed in the desert. Psalm 107:35 He turned the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs;Psalm 114:8 who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water.

I also think that in this life there is no room for ‘changelessness’: this is something we are promised in the hereafter. But for now there is work to be done.

Do we know where the progressive path will lead us?

No, we don’t entirely. We know where we would like it to take us as soon as possible – the raising of women to the episcopate, the inclusion of LGBT people, and the empowerment of the laity. In shorthand, a Church of all the talents.

But there will be unforeseen and unintended consequences. Unforeseen and unintended by us, that is. I wonder what God wants?

The illustration is Heraclitus (c.1630) by Johannes Moreelse (c. 1603–1634) via Wikimedia

‘Like The Wideness Of The Sea’ by Maggi Dawn

I looked forward to reading this book as I knew that the author of ‘The Accidental Pilgrim‘ would have written more than a moaning diatribe against the treatment of women in the Church of England. And indeed it is so –   Maggi Dawn’s prose is a sheer delight for anyone with an ear for language, and I can well understand why liturgy and new liturgical forms are a major part of her ministry. She draws you in with the (unconscious?*) Celtic spirituality of her first paragraph:

The beach is like a liminal space between daily life and the mystery of the deep; the ebb and flow of the tide measureing time in a powerful, dignified way. Like the repeating pattern of the Daily Offices, it seems the same and yet is never exactly the same as the day before; although it is changing constantly, those changes are almost imperceptible to the human eye…Here, then, I find a picture of God that is at once constant yet not static, dependably predictable while my own life unfolds year by year. Summer or winter, the water’s edge is a cathedral in the open spaces, a place…where I can think clearly and catch the whispers of God’s voice.

The book is divided into a brief history of the Movement for the Ordination of Women, and the recent attempts to consecrate women bishops; some thoughts on the spirituality of waiting (“I wanted to explore the idea that we are mistakenly urging each other to wait for God while the possibility hangs in the air that God is waiting for us“); and lastly, an account of her own unfolding vocation.

Woven throughout the book are the threads of Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner and Faber’s hymn ‘There’s a wideness in God’s mercy‘ (see below), with metaphorical insights into the life of the Church which lift this book way above mere political polemic:

Waiting for a moment when the Church will move forward with one mind is, like the Mariner’s ship, an idea removed from reality; the truth is that as long as we wait for complete unity on one issue, we will remain immobilised and parched on the silent sea. We need, rather, to allow ourselves to look for some signs of life, even if they initially seem threatening, to lead us out of paralysis.

A dream deferred and the ‘process of reception
In a curious incidence of synchronicity, Maggi Dawn suggests the Church draw inspiration from the wisdom of Gamaliel to: move forward…[by] allowing for a provisional decision to be moved and acted upon (p.18).  Meanwhile on 8 February the Church of England announced that eight senior women clergy would be allowed observer status in the House of Bishops. This sounds very much like an attempt to emulate Gamaliel. So either Maggi or her publishers had a quiet word with the powers that be at Church House or the Church is on occasion capable of swift action when it sees the need. Either way, we must hope that this step leads to a concrete outcome.

Her personal story
For reasons of space, I won’t explore here (which the book does) the call to ministry. Instead, we must look at some of the pain that was inflicted on her by the institutional church. There are numerous examples, starting with the leaflet pushed under her  door in the first week of theological college: ‘A woman’s place is not at the altar but in the kitchen. Put on an apron, get back to where you belong’. This was 1993. She gives many examples of similar difficulties. You might be forgiven for thinking she must be exaggerating, but sadly I have only to point you to the 207 comments of the (favourable) review of this book on Archbishop Cranmer’s blog to show that nastiness of that kind is alive and well, twenty years later.

Reader, I wept. Much of what she said resonated only too clearly with me, although I did not even seek ordained ministry. I wondered why she used the word ‘disenable’, which my dictionary says is ‘very rare’, rather than ‘disabled.’ But she is right. The Church first of all enabled women’s ministry and then in some quarters has set about disabling those whom it previously enabled.  I hope and pray that the chink of light offered by the admittance of “the eight” may grow and illumine the hearts of us all.

Meanwhile, ‘Like the Wideness of the Sea’ also offers us hope and remains a delight to read, you could not wish for a more stimulating companion on the voyage.

* I think it perfectly likely that this echo is entirely conscious and deliberate, but I shall never know. Her book on pilgrimage is full of such teasing invitations to take diversionary paths and the reader is unable to decide whether the author is nudging us or not…

“Genuine question to my Anglo-Catholic friends”: Erika Baker

Genuine question to my Anglo-Catholic friends here:

I’m still mulling over the implications of provisions for Anglo-Catholics when women become bishops. And I understand that you are seeking to keep the Church of England together and that this will only be possible with fairly tight provisions that ensure you are not affected by any sacramental actions any woman bishop exercises.

So would this church unity you are seeking include any genuine recognition of each other’s actions?

For example would a new member in your parish have to be re-confirmed if he had been confirmed by a woman bishop? Or by a male bishop who has participated in the ordination of women?

Would the parish system as it stands still be valid and possible?
Would people have to indicate whether they are CoE or CoE/AC?
What level of unity would we actually have?

Or would we be two churches as remote from each other as the CoE and the Roman Catholics, who just happen to share a name?
What would all of this look like in practice?

  • Peter Bolton I think you have highlighted a very real question. Increasingly I am coming to believe that it is impossible to have a church which both does and does not have women bishops. I do not think that for long we could claim to be in the same church.
  • Erika Baker Peter, that is my worry too. I would regret that very much but I am struggling to see how it could really work in practice
  • Rosina Elston Cetainly not. Affirming Catholicism is inclusive. Our priest is a member of SSC which seems to be totally exclusive of women priests. Is that correct?
  • Peter Bolton But, Erika, some of us Conservative Anglo-Catholics are a bit fed up folk assuming that we are all like FinF.
    5 hours ago via mobile · Like · 1
  • John Thompson-Vear There’re all separate groups, sharing some distinctions, but your local AC place might have no truck w FinF, eg.
  • Richard Haggis It’s very hard to believe that any of it matters much.
  • Erika Baker Peter, I can fully understand that. But you’re in the same boat that we are. In order to make this work we have to include those we find most remote from ourselves. And the question is whether that is possible. We could not have legislation and provisions that include you but not FiF – on what basis would we make those choices? Either inclusion is possible or it isn’t.
    5 hours ago · Like · 1
  • John Thompson-Vear Confirmation issues are theological castles on the sky because they derive from the separation from baptism, which should be restored, even for infants.
    5 hours ago via mobile · Like · 1
  • Rosina Elston So how do you define yourselves? You are certainly not mainstream Church of England; otherwise you would be under the dsicipline of the church and accept the decision to ordain women as priests.
  • Peter Bolton Mainstream Church of England? I would say mainstream is what the Church of England has been since Augustine landed on these shores – that is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
  • Peter Bolton That is how Anglo-Catholics have always defined themselves and so we see the modern CofE departing from the mainstream.
  • Peter Bolton I am mainstream, the rest of you are just a bit odd!
    5 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Richard Haggis One lot of Pharisees drifting off from another!
  • Peter Bolton Why “Pharisees”, Richard?
  • Erika Baker That may well be true, Peter. But the point remains that you are not what is now becoming mainstream within the CoE. And for those of us who are it would be helpful to understand the difference between your views to those of FiF, for example. Having said that, I know FiF members who don’t seem to be far removed from you at all. Every grouping has raving lunatics amongst their members
  • John Thompson-Vear Post-Reformation settlement in these 2 provinces permits & encourages difference in unity – I don’t understand why such clear distinction & line-drawing is being required in this case?
  • Peter Bolton I think my problem with FinF is to do with behaviour not substance.
  • Richard Haggis I think I’m turning into a Quaker, I can’t see anything of the teaching of Jesus in all this
  • Peter Bolton I’m still not sure Pharisee was a good word.
  • Richard Haggis They weren’t bad people, nothing like as bad as painted in the Gospels, but consumed by rules
  • Erika Baker John, we don’t require any line drawing at all, those of you who need to have a certain level of isolation from women bishops do. And all I am trying to do is understand the extent of those lines and how they will impact on a daily basis.
    5 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Peter Bolton John, the difference here is that we can no longer recognise ministries – something which a divided CofE has always managed before. The Bishop WAS the Bishop – even if you hated him! – but in future there will be those who do not recognise the Bishop as Bishop. That, frankly is impossible.
  • Peter Bolton For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
  • Erika Baker Well, thank God that it is God’s grace and not our righteousness that opens up the kingdom of heaven
    5 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Peter Bolton Just one point of clarification on your original question, Erika: Nobody really holds the “tainted hands” theory. It has NEVER been something that any member of FinF or any other Anglo-Catholic has actually believed so, a validly ordained (male) bishop is able to validly Confirm, Ordain and Consecrate etc. He IS a valid Bishop the question is not whether his Sacraments are valid but whether we are in full Communion with him.
  • Erika Baker Peter, now that I understand that fully I struggle with the whole concept even more. How can we be part of the same church and not in full Communion with each other? What does church unity mean, if it does not mean that?
    5 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Peter Bolton I totally agree. I think that is why it has been impossible to draw up legislation that will work for all.
  • Erika Baker How can I meaningfully be in full Communion with the Methodists and the Baptists and the Lutheran Protestants yet not with priests and bishops in my own church?
    5 hours ago · Like · 2
  • Erika Baker It’s not so much the legislation I’m worried about right now but the underlying theology. What does church unity mean if it does not mean being in full Communion with each other?
    5 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Peter Bolton I would not claim to be in anything like full Communion with the above!
  • Peter Bolton I agree completely. We have two very different visions of what it is to be “Church”. Honestly and very sadly, we have to say that we are not the same.
  • Erika Baker And yet, Peter, I was born, baptised and confirmed a Lutheran Protestant and no-one has ever suggested that I must “convert” to being an Anglican. Even Reader ministry would have been open to me without any formal steps that bring me into full Communion with the CoE.
  • Peter Bolton I think the CofE is in full Communion with (some?) Lutheran Churches. I’m vague on that one!
  • John Thompson-Vear I have to go now, but I maintain that living together well in times ahead would be a lot easier than many think for all – & I point out that I have offered insight here without necessarily presuming to venture my own position! Best wishes, J
    4 hours ago via mobile · Like · 1
  • Erika Baker But you, a CoE priest, are not, because they have women priests and bishops
  • Erika Baker Thanks for stopping by, John!
  • Rosina Elston I remember my parents’ shock when they moved to Chichester from Leicester when they heard a ‘traditional’ exclusive Anglo-catholic incumbent declare that he didn’t think that Salvation Army or Quakers are Christians! You cannot have Church Unity with people like that unless you conform to their view of the church. Such exclusive people should recognise where their spiritual home lies. A lay personwouldhave joined the RC Church long ago. I cannot understand why the clergy have been given special favours on this.
  • Erika Baker Rosina, apart from the bizarre PEV scheme there have not been any special favours until now. These people are as much CoE as you or I. And the church we just about still have has accomplished the miracle of containing us all
    4 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Peter Bolton So, Erika, we talk of broken or incomplete Communion.
  • Erika Baker Yes, but within the same church!
  • Richard Haggis If you don’t turn up at the altar, you’re not in communion, there is no communion without communion
  • Peter Bolton Catholic Theology is happy to talk about a Communion existing between all the Baptised whose unity is in Christ.
  • Erika Baker But Rome won’t even give me Holy Communion
  • Peter Bolton (Quakers and the Sally Bash do not have Baptism but even with them I would acknowledge a communion in faith.)
  • Richard Haggis I just take it, and don’t tell ’em
  • Peter Bolton No, in Catholic Theology Holy Communion is an expression of an already existing fullness of Communion. Same is true in Orthodox Theology too. Again that used to be the way most Anglican Theologians would have seen it in the past.
  • Erika Baker Peter, I think that some of this confusion is down to the fact that we use the same term to mean a large variety of different things. Unity and Communion being the worst offenders in this particular conversation
    4 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Peter Bolton Richard – don’t you think you are lying by doing so?
  • Richard Haggis Nope, their rules bore me
  • Peter Bolton But you are claiming a union which does not exist. You are claiming that you are the same as they are when you are not.
  • Rosina Elston It has not contained it at all. I do not go to my local church because our priest will never invite a woman to celebrate the Eucharist. He came in without saying this openly. I am very sore about this deceit and the complaints from exclusive people about being excluded! Exclusive is as exclusive does. Don’t complain when you find you are not accepted by those whom you exclude. A black slave might have to serve water to her master, but that did not prevent her from spitting into it beforehand. We are all human; gender dscrimination has become an instrument of oppression.
    4 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Shelley Huston Whose meal is it anyhow? Funny how we try to narrow somebody else’s guest list.
    4 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Richard Haggis I have never given communion to anyone assuming that they were the same as me!
    4 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Erika Baker Peter, I take it too and many Catholic priests have given it to me knowing I am not Catholic. We are indeed claiming that we are the same as them. They just don’t know it. God does
    4 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Richard Haggis But I do tend to assume they have a good reason for wanting to share, and that’s good enough for me
    4 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Rosina Elston Is it ‘sharing’ if only a certain kind of person can carve the joint?
    4 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Richard Haggis I wouldn’t insist on carving at someone else’s table
  • Peter Bolton What a strange analogy we have going on here!
  • Peter Bolton Fine, for the Protestant Tendency Eucharist is about sharing. For the Catholic Tendency it is Sacrifice. Please don’t ask me why some Catholic Priests have no knowledge of their own theology!
  • Erika Baker I think the Catholic priests I am referring to are very sound on their theology. They just do not believe that it excludes me
    4 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Peter Bolton Sorry, that should read “Catholic Theology”. They may well have their own theology – and that’s the point!
  • Elizabeth Wickens ‘No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine’ (John 15:4). In a recent sermon at my church it was said that this whole problem has arisen because of the compromise agreed to when the first women were ordained priests. God’s values cannot be compromised, as Christ teaches us. If the dissenting minority were to submit graciously to the majority vote, we wouldn’t need to agonise about this matter. The ABC was far too soft allowing himself to be bullied over the Jeffrey John affair, though admittedly in that case the opposition weren’t in such a minority as in this recent case.
  • Peter Bolton I do just what to come back on the “guest list” point that Rosina made: Indeed, everyone is welcome.
  • Erika Baker Leaving their own troubles with their own church aside fora moment, I am not bound by their theology. It doesn’t matter what they think they’re celebrating, the Sacrament is valid even if the Minister is in error:-) And so I feel perfectly free to take Communion in Catholic churches. Because it’s between me and God. And only He decides whether the sacrament is valid or not.
    4 hours ago · Like · 2
  • Peter Bolton This is not about validity but Communion.
  • Erika Baker I can leave the Communion decision to God t oo
    4 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Peter Bolton Then why are we spening so much time on the question here?
  • Erika Baker For my part, I am in Communion with every Christian on the planet. If they do not wish to be in Communion with me, that is up to them. It does not change the fact that they are part of the same body of Christ
    4 hours ago · Like · 2
  • Erika Baker Because the WB question is the same. You may not be in Communion with WBs but they are in Communion with you.
  • Erika Baker We do not exclude anyone. That is the point
  • Erika Baker The isolation required is isolation you need from us. It is not isolation we need from you
  • Peter Bolton It is not a matter of “wishing” it. Of course Catholics and Orthodox long for Communion with other Christians and most especially with each other but it just ISN’T a reality. We are in the world of reality here not wishes.
  • Richard Haggis You’re not even in anything as real as Narnia!
  • Erika Baker The reality is unknowable and lies with God. The reality we have on earth are the different theologies of the different churches. And they are, ultimately, nothing but faith. You believe that we are not in Communion, we simply believe that we are. And in this limbo we will be stuck until we no longer see through the glass darkly
    4 hours ago · Like · 3
  • Peter Bolton I’m not sure that your last but one point is entirely true, Erika. If the numbers had been reversed (as a few decades ago they were) those in favour of women priests were the ones wanting to move away from the mainstream. Communion is not something you take – it is something you have. It is those moving away from the fulness of our Communion who are isolating us.
  • Richard Haggis How can communion be “full” when people look at it, and really don’t much want to join it?
  • Erika Baker That depends on your definition of full Communion. For inclusive people, Communion is never restricted to particular groups of people whatever their number.
    4 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Erika Baker And that you can restrict who you are in Communion with is as much an act of faith as my thinking that we are all together, like it or not
  • Peter Bolton And, Erika, I would say that that is an entirely novel way of doing ecclesiology.
  • Erika Baker It’s not about ecclesiology. It’s not about church admin, if you like. It’s the reality of my faith. That I will take with me in whatever part of the Christian community I should find myself. I fully accept that the human church adminy part of it needs boundaries.
    4 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Erika Baker But for me, they will always ever be human boundaries set by people for other people or for themselves. Before God there are no boundaries of that kind
    4 hours ago · Like · 2
  • Peter Bolton The Theology of belonging IS ecclesiology in my book.
  • Richard Haggis John the Baptist never belonged, and he’s a saint, with TWO feast days
  • Erika Baker But we don’t get to decide who belongs, God does. And as we can’t know his thoughts with 100% certainty, all our theology is tentative.
    4 hours ago · Like · 3
  • Peter Bolton But have we just once more come up against Protestantism: Faith is what is inside ME V Catholicism: Faith is what the Church has!
  • Richard Haggis Empty pews and a history of covering child abuse?
  • Peter Bolton I think John the Baptist belonged to Israel -to the Children of Abraham.
  • Erika Baker We are all part of the body of Christ. We are all one church. And all our faith together, the right bits, the wrong bits and the muddled bits make up the faith of the church
    4 hours ago · Like · 2
  • Richard Haggis That’s a pretty wide definition of belonging then, not needing to be disciples of Christ at all, I can go along with that
  • Peter Bolton Whatever you bind on earth….
  • Richard Haggis Don’t, I’m still hoping the senna will work …
    4 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Erika Baker Once the faith of the church included that witches were evil and did not belong. Once it included that blacks were not equal to whites. Now it still includes in some churches that gay people are intrinsically ordered to an objective evil. That doesn’t mean it’s true. It means it’s what current thinking is. Some churches have discerend that women can be priests, others have not yet. They might never. None of that is evidence of any objective truth
    4 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Peter Bolton Whenever did the Church teach that blacks were not equal to whites?
  • Erika Baker Peter, I am bound. You might not know it. The Pope might not know it. It doesn’t change the fact.
  • Erika Baker Did you never come across some of the great sermons in support of slavery?
  • Erika Baker I must dig those links out, they make fascinating reading
  • Richard Haggis It was the law in Christian countries throughout the slavery period – and into Apartheid in recent times!
    4 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Peter Bolton Ultimately, the difference between us Erika, is your belief in progress and my belief in a once and for all revelation.
  • Erika Baker I think even Roman Catholic history indicates that they change their theology, if only very very slowly. We believe in continued revelation not in some kind of purely secular progress. And even those of us who believe in a once and for all revelation often believe that we are still in the process of interpreting that and that while God doesn’t change, our insights about him do.
    4 hours ago · Edited · Like · 1
  • Richard Haggis Matthew Parker believed in the doctrine of “things indifferent, adiaphora”, where we disagree is how much we lump under that umbrella
  • Elizabeth Harper Sadly Peter the Church did at one stage teach that blacks were not equal to whites – its most recent form being the aprtheid church policy in Sth Africa. The reasoning (based on flawed logic in my opinion) was that Gen 9:25-27 stated that Hamites i.e. black people were cursed and to be slaves. We now believe that this interpretation is a complete misunderstanding of the passage. But that is the problem with revelation it needs interpreting by flawed human beings and so we can never be sure that our interpretation is God’s understanding of the revelation. Our own sinfulness (individual and corporate for the church can sin and get things wrong too) means we must always accept we might be wrong – all of us on all sides.
    4 hours ago · Like · 2
  • Erika Baker Elizabeth, welcome!!!!
  • Peter Bolton Perhaps by “The Church” we mean different things.
  • Richard Haggis Don’t we just mean what we want it to mean? “Of course The Church didn’t denigrate black people” (when it did), “Of course The Church accepts women bishops” (when it doesn’t, yet)
  • Erika Baker You’ve lost me now, Peter. In what respect are we meaning different things by “the church” here?
  • Peter Bolton Not sure what you are getting at, Richard. Of course we all come to our own judgements of what truth is but I still have to be convinced that the Church officially taught that blacks are inferior to whites – whatever some nasty individuals may have thought. A sermon by me does not, thank God, constitute the Church’s teaching..
  • Peter Bolton Again, I believe in a “given-ness” which other contributors seem to deny.
  • Erika Baker I’ll dig around, Peter, and maybe Elizabeth Harper can come back with some evidence.
    In the meantime, though, you picked one of several examples I gave for change in the church. That alone, even if I should have got it wrong, does not change the principle that all churches have mechanisms for discernment and that this discernment develops over time.
    3 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Peter Bolton Just one question to be asked of theologoumena: is this what the church has believed at all times and in all places? If the answer is no then it is a heresy 🙂:-)
  • Peter Bolton And with that I must away to the Hospital for a long wait and a short appointment 🙂:-) Do carry on without me and enjoy!
    3 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Erika Baker It does discover that it continues to believe the same it has believed before but that it recognises that this belief can be widened to include more people than it had previously thought. A bit like St Paul realising that gentiles could be included. It did not change anything about Christianity, it just made it apparent that the scope was wider than had been believed.
    3 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Peter Bolton SO! Who makes that judgement? A local Synod or the Universal Church?
  • Erika Baker Back to where were a week or so ago! The CoE together with numerous churches around the world believes that it can make that discernment (women priests, I take it is what you are referring to now) for itself. Just like it can have a group looking into revising its view of Civil Partnerships without having to wait for Rome to discover that gay people are not objectively disordered.
  • Erika Baker It’s all a widening of the circle, all keeping the core completely intact but realising that the revelation has more scope than initially believed
  • Erika Baker Which is, going back to my earlier point, why we can be in Communion with those who have smaller cirlces but t they cannot be in Communion with us.
  • June Butler As I see it from outside the Church of England, (and perhaps it’s none of my business, and I shouldn’t speak out) the vote was a slap in the face not just to women priests, but to all women, not acknowledging them as fully human. Think about the petti…See More
    2 hours ago · Edited · Like · 2
  • Elizabeth Harper The “racist” reading of Genesis 9 given above was official Catholic and Protestant teaching of the meaning of that verse back in the 16th and 17th century. The problem with “what the church has always and everywhere believed” is that there is almost no…See More
    2 hours ago · Like · 3
  • Erika Baker Yes, June, the Universal Church argument only ever seems to be something that people who move away from Rome and the Orthodox church have to worry about, never something that those churches should be concerned about. But since I don’t believe in the Universal Church as an administrative body anyway I cannot get too worked up about this argument.
    2 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Elizabeth Harper Similarly Church History evidence suggests women were in leadership in the early Church and it was only in the 3rd or 4th century that women were excluded, for a variety of reasons, so that women leadership is also not an everywhere and at all times pa…See More
    2 hours ago · Edited · Like · 1
  • Richard Haggis If we shout loud enough, and stamp hard enough, we can make what we agree with true at all times and in all places. (Gospel of Saint Alice in Wonderland.)
    2 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Erika Baker Elizabeth, I agree about leadership and women but that’s an argument against the evangelical headship view not against the Anglo-Catholic view that women cannot be priests.
  • Erika Baker And I accept that the “administrative body” was tongue in cheek
  • Elizabeth Harper Erika, I’m not so sure that this is an argument only for evangelicals. Those early women leaders, presided at Eucharist and had the same function and status (ontology) of the men, and were put in place by the apostles in succession, ergo they were prie…See More
    2 hours ago · Edited · Like · 1
  • Erika Baker Elizabeth, is there actual evidence for this? Because if there is, I don’t understand how the view that this did not happen or that female priests are not possible can be so widespread and rigid.
  • Richard Haggis Karen-Jo Torjesen “When Women Were Priests” I found pretty convincing, and I’ve seen “Theodora, Episcopa” in the mosaic in Rome, that’s not made up.
  • Elizabeth Harper The problem is that there is not nearly as much evidence of anything in the early church as we would like and selective readings and promotion of certain aspects of church history means that we are only rediscovering things by fresh examinations of the…See More
  • Peter Bolton This thread has ranged a bit too far for me to catch up except that I would like to note Richard’s masterful display of his knowledge of English literature.
  • Peter Bolton As predicted the wait was long and the appointment short. I now have a headache.
  • Elizabeth Harper Every sympathy Peter, it is very frustrating
  • Peter Bolton All agree that women had leadership roles of some sort in the early church – I would suggest that any evidence that they were ever seen as priests is extraordinarily shaky. But the telling evidence is that if ever it did happen it did come to an end universally.
  • Erika Baker Peter, there were only 12 comments since you left! 
    Sorry about the headache. That’s not good at all
  • Erika Baker It calls for an early glass of Merlot
  • Peter Bolton Just one more annoying question: If Christianity changes so much as the sceptics say, how can we talk about Christianity at all. Where is this core which holds together?
  • Erika Baker It doesn’t change much at all, that’s my point. It just expands. The core is always the same. Including gentiles didn’t change Christianity, Christ was still the core that held it together. Allowing black people into leadership positions didn’t change …See More
  • Peter Bolton I guess my question was aimed more at Elizabeth and Richard. I think your argument has great force, Erika. My difficulty with what you say is whether local churches can act alone. But I don’t want to repeat myself.
  • Erika Baker Elizabeth HarperRichard Haggis seems you are needed 🙂:-)
  • Elizabeth Harper Well I enjoyed being called a sceptic 🙂:). I agree in part with Erika, some of what is going on is expansion but I do think things change as well. But then my view is that this is what the revelation through Bible and Tradition shows. I read the Bible a…See More
    22 minutes ago · Edited · Like · 3
  • Erika Baker While they’re getting ready… my difficulty with your argument, Peter, is that the Universal church has not done anything together for centuries and is now so widespread and far apart that it is virtually unthinkable that it could ever again be an ent…See More
  • Peter Bolton Erika, ARCIC and similar dialogues have produced remarkable convergence – not least between Orthodoxy and Rome. (Even if the Russian Patriarchy is a little out of step at the moment).
  • Peter Bolton I do hope Elizabeth doesn’t read the Bible and drive at the same time. It’s no route map.
  • Elizabeth Harper Neither Peter is the Church a very good route map 🙂:-)
  • Erika Baker But, Peter, the Universal church must include all those churches who have since made their own discernment and moved away from Rome and the Orthodox church. It has to be more than the conservative spectrum. That Rome and the Orthodox might agree is all very nice but you cannot speak of a discernment of the Universal Church until every Christian church in the world signs up to it too.
  • Peter Bolton OK the above helps Elizabeth. I think I can go with most of that. I would perhaps want to say a bit more about revelation but we are not millions of miles apart.
  • Rosina Elston I’ve been away sorting out bedding/food for my hens. Lots of mud and relief from all this, but thank you for carrying on. We seem to have got down to fundamentals like the nature of the Gospel of Jesus the Christ, and validating ‘truth’. I can’t see…See More
  • Erika Baker Now THERE’s something to celebrate! My most favourite evangelical friend and my newest and highly respected Anglo-Catholic friend are not very far apart! If we can do this…
  • Elizabeth Harper As to whether the Local Church can go alone. I would say look at the Prophets. They were often on the outside of the “Church” i.e. Temple and they were introducing revolutionary theology (God might be on the side of the Babylonians and not the Temple w…See More
    5 minutes ago · Edited · Like · 2
  • Peter Bolton “But, Peter…..”. Trouble is, Erika, as Ratzinger said of the cofE that it s not a Church in the proper sense but only a Ecclesial Community, I tend to think the same of churches which have given up episcopacy.
  • Erika Baker Peter, but if you go back to the last time your Universal Church made a discernment, you have to say that while those who have since split away may have erred but they may not have and they are still part of that group of Christians that have to agree …See More
  • Rosina Elston Why do you need all these definitions? Life doesn’t have definitions. When we think we have grasped a truth, something comes along to scupper that idea – this is the way of scientific/knowledge progression. Do you still believe the earth is the centre of the universe? If not, why not? because a Pope admitted it or because of the Maths?
    8 minutes ago · Like · 1
  • Elizabeth Harper The Church of the East has an episcopacy with claims as good as Catholicism and Orthodoxy to apostolic origin. What defines Church vs ecclesial community?
  • Erika Baker Rosina, quite. And when experience and psychology tell me that being gay is a perfectly normal minority variant of human sexuality that is no more or less healthy than being straight, why should I accept the authority of someone who insists that it is …See More
  • Peter Bolton If my memory serves me right, Ratzinger argues that valid sacraments are what characterises a Church.#
  • Rosina Elston And what of the Arian Church? I suppose that was written off so long ago, it’s supposed not to count, but Arian Christians were very influential in the east. We’re back to translations again – one half spoke Latin, and one Greek. We got the Roman concept of definitions and legal claptrap.
  • Erika Baker But if Ratzinger represents only one part of the Universal Church, why should his definition have automatic primacy over that of the Church of the East?
    And didn’t Elizabeth say earlier that they do have apostolic succession?
  • Peter Bolton I am not sure about Arians – I honestly did not know that there were any – but I am sure that non-Chalcedon Churches count.
  • Peter Bolton I am sure that most Eastern Chritians would agree. Certainly the Orthodox do. (Even the Russian Patriarch).
  • Rosina Elston He is only the Pope. Why should listen to him? He excommunicated a wonderful priest then had to re-communicate him. Isn’t that human fallibility? Why should we in England care what a Latin speaking Bavarian calls the turuth just because he is head of a foreign power? That is the English attitude to the Roman Church which has been around for a very long time.

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!

Thought for the Second Sunday before Advent: Revolutionary Change

There is only so much you can do with Elastoplast or duct tape and pretending that if things are unpleasant or unwelcome they don’t exist. I make no apologies for using an image from the Tarot to illustrate today’s readings, particularly the gospel, but if this offends you please read no further.

In two days time, General Synod will vote on whether to recognise the 21st century by admitting women to the episcopate. And next spring a new Archbishop of Canterbury will be enthroned. Make no mistake, both these events will change the Church of England. It is my hope and my opinion that both changes will be for the better, but so far we have seen only the velvet glove of Bishop Justin Welby – if you ask those who have negotiated with him, either over oil or in the middle of the African bush, I imagine they would assure you that the iron hand is definitely there underneath.

Wikipedia describes the meaning of the card as follows:

A variety of explanations for the images depicted on the card have been attempted. For example, it may be a reference to the biblical story of the Tower of Babel, where God destroys a tower built by mankind to reach Heaven. Alternatively, the Harrowing of Hell was a frequent subject in late medieval liturgical drama, and Hell could be depicted as a great gate knocked asunder by Jesus Christ, with accompanying pyrotechnics.

In this manuscript picture of the Harrowing of Hell, Jesus forces open the fiery tower gate of Hell to free the virtuous dead from Limbo. The enactment of this scene in liturgical drama may be one source of the image of the Tower.

To some, it symbolizes failure, ruin and catastrophe. Many differing meanings are attributed to the card:

  • To others, the Tower represents the paradigms constructed by the ego, the sum total of all schema that the mind constructs to understand the universe. The Tower is struck by lightning when reality does not conform to expectation..Life is self-correcting. Either [people] must make changes in their own lives, or the changes will be made for them.
  • [Are we]  holding on to false ideas or pretences; a new approach to thinking about the problem is needed. [We are]advised to think outside the box… It may be time… to re-examine belief structures, ideologies, and paradigms … The card may also point toward seeking education or higher knowledge.
  • Others believe that the Tower represents dualism, and the smashing of dualism into its component parts, in preparation for renewal that does not come from reified, entrenched concepts. The Ivory Tower as a parallel image comes to mind, with all its good parts and its bad parts.


This all sounds like very good advice from my pew in the Church – how does it seem from where you are sitting?

Two hymns:

And thou wilt bring the young green corn, the young green corn for ever singing…

And Laurence Housman’s

Father eternal, Ruler of creation,
Spirit of life, which moved ere form was made;
Through the thick darkness covering every nation,
Light to man’s blindness, O be Thou our aid:
Thy kingdom come, O Lord, Thy will be done.


Races and peoples, lo! we stand divided,
And sharing not our griefs, no joy can share;
By wars and tumults love is mocked, derided,
His conquering cross no kingdom wills to bear:
Thy kingdom come, O Lord, Thy will be done.


Envious of heart, blind eyed, with tongues confounded,
Nation by nation still goes unforgiven;
In wrath and fear, by jealousies surrounded,
Building proud towers which shall not reach to heaven:
Thy kingdom come, O Lord, Thy will be done.
How shall we love Thee, holy, hidden Being,
If we love not the world which Thou hast made?
O give us brother love for better seeing
Thy world made flesh, and in a manger laid:
Thy kingdom come, O Lord, Thy will be done.

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