Women Bishops – Draft Measures and Code of Practice

The Church of England has published a draft measure and code of practice ahead of February’s session of General Synod. I’ve only had a cursory glance as I’m still on holiday, but two things strike me immediately:

  • The code of practice allows parishes that dissent pretty much the same actions as they currently have by passing resolutions A, B and C. This means that if the Diocesan is amenable, dissenting parishes can carry on as before.
  • Sections 65 to 67 of the draft code of practice allow individual clergy who dissent, regardless of the stance of their own parish, to indicate their conscienscious refusal to accept the episcopal / sacramental ministry of women. This supports those like myself who, though theological opposed to women’s ordination will probably work within parishes that have little problem with such innovation. This is the draft wording of that section:

65. There may be circumstances where, although a PCC does not wish to pass a petition, its incumbent or another priest or deacon, deaconess, reader or other lay minister licensed to the parish is unable on grounds of theological conviction to receive the episcopal ministry of women. In these cases bishops should endeavour to put arrangements in place which, while consistent with the views of the parish, respect the theological convictions of the clergy or lay ministers concerned.

66. The variety of such possible arrangements does not make it sensible to attempt to cater for them all in this Code but they might, for example, include agreeing that candidates presented for confirmation by an incumbent unable to receive the episcopal ministry of women would normally be confirmed by a male bishop. They might also provide that, in the event of disciplinary proceedings, the relevant powers should be exercised by a complementary bishop.

67. Bishops should also, so far as possible, ensure that suitable arrangements are in place in relation to ministers in chaplaincies and other non-parochial roles who, on grounds of theological conviction, cannot receive the priestly or episcopal ministry of women.

Of course, one must remember that the key point about the code of practice is that it is not enforceable. All it needs is one uppity bishop to say, "You must accept the ministry of women – I will not accomodate your views", and the whole thing falls apart. That of course is the reason why many are still holding out for a third province.

In summary – the code of practice as a code of practice is good, but the legal enforcement of such provisions is still the thorny issue.

Update

massinformation has comment on how this isn’t going to please the liberals…

The proposed Code also outlines that the Diocesan will have to give ‘cogent reasons’ for refusing to act upon elements of the Code. Refusal to either give such cogent reasons or a more general refusal to act upon the terms of the Code could swiftly lead to a judicial review. Seemingly, any bishop who fails to enact upon the Code could face legal action and, potentially, imprisonment if they refuse to act upon the ruling of the court (contempt of court). In such a case they would be forced to resign the See. Any one example of this being successful would essentially enforce the Code as legislation.

It has always been entirely clear that for us, Anglican Catholics, a Code really cannot deliver – you know why and, if you think it can then visit the various articles and arguments around: it cannot and will not work.

BUT if ‘liberals’ thought they were getting their way after July, the Manchester Group just proved them wrong. If this is passed, we lose but they do too. If this is blocked, the whole process starts again, with the knowledge that they cannot get what they seem to want.

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