The English House of Bishops have revealed the wording of their amendment to clause 5(1)c in the Women Bishops Legislation which caused so much fuss in Synod this summer. Out goes,
the selection of male bishops or male priests the exercise of ministry by whom is consistent with the theological convictions as to the consecration or ordination of women on grounds of which parochial church councils have issued Letters of Request under section 3
and in comes,
the selection of male bishops and male priests in a manner which respects the grounds on which parochial church councils issue Letters of Request under section 3
and you know what, it’s pretty good stuff. Indeed it’s genius. Let me explain.
The amendment removes the phrase “the exercise of ministry by whom is consistent with theological convictions as to the consecration or ordination of women”. At first sight this seems to weaken the clause for traditionalists for there is no mention of the theological distinctions involved. But in it’s place comes the simple few words “in a manner which respects”.
Respect is a beautiful word. It doesn’t just mean that one accepts that someone you disagree with has an opinion, it gives that opinion some validity. To not respect an opinion is to disregard it, to deem it of no worth, to not have to take account of it in one’s response to it. By contrast, to respect a position means one has to not just recognise it but also take it into account when responding to it. A response that respects a position has to accommodate it, has to be seen not to be ignoring it and relegating it to second best.
Respect is a really beautiful word. It carries with it noble connotations. It has the ring of amenability, of compromise, of conciliation, of thinking the best of your opponent, of gentleness and peace. Those who don’t respect are boorish thugs, bigoted fundamentalists whose actions are the antithesis of Christian love, grace and charity. And that will be how the vast majority of people in the Church will see those who reject the Bishop’s amendment. How can you not “respect”? Those who would vote no, are you really not even capable of respecting your opponents? You actually don’t want to respect them?
WATCH, dear reader, are between a rock and a hard place.