Double Standards?

Methinks John Richardson makes a marvellous point.

Some would regard the termination of the period of reception by the fiat of Synod as a job well done. Others, however, would regard it as a betrayal, not least of the talk, for the last eighteen years, of ‘two integrities’. Indeed, in this respect a decision by the General Synod could not be regarded as a decision by the ‘Church of England’ since it will, of necessity, rely on a majority overruling a minority at a point of faith and conscience hitherto encouraged and embraced.

Moreover, this issue confronts us at a time when the English episcopate are ‘wobbling’ on their commitment to the position hitherto maintained by Issues in Human Sexuality.Yet I would want to suggest, tentatively, that the latter may well provide an indicator of the way ahead.

In his recent address to his diocesan synod, the Bishop of Gloucester argues (as has the Bishop of Liverpool) that sexuality is, precisely like the ordination and consecration of women, a ‘second order’ issue over which, on the basis of Anglican ‘comprehensiveness’, we ought to be able to live together in ‘a’ communion if not full communion.

At least in regard to the ordination of women, the Bishop is right. That is exactly what the legislation enacted in 1993 set out to achieve, and it succeeded. We do indeed live together and, insofar as we can regard Rodney King as a theologian, we do all, just about, ‘get along’ according to his dictum. One of the reasons we are able to do this, however, is that no-one is compelled to accept the ministry of ordained women.

Logically, then, the way for us to continue to ‘get along’ over women bishops is to allow the same with regard to them and, moreover, to allow it with the maximum exercise of principle and conscience, rather than (as Synod seem currently bent on proposing) the minimum. Doubtless this could be achieved, and though doubtless it would be messy, we would continue to ‘get along’.

Question is though – do we want to “agree to disagree” on both of these subjects or neither?

69 Comments on “Double Standards?

  1. I think Johnh (and others) need to be clearer about the meaning of a 'period of reception'. As one (traditionalist) Bishop explained it to me – it is a way and time for the church to receive a gift. A time of transition and adjustment is needed to receive that gift. Our church has decided that the ministry of women in Priests orders should be part of its life and ministry.
    The 'period of reception' was not meant as a 'testing out' period – allowing the church to change its mind if it wanted to do so. Reception is a techincal theological term (used I think by Newman?) and is not a trial period.

    • May I point the Canon to the definition supplied in the Church of England's guide to women bishops on page 2 (to which I note that John Richardson also links). It's not a time of "transistion and adjustment", but a process where the Church of England "reflects … on the authenticity of its decision to ordain women". Presumably, if the Church of England is reflecting, then there's the possibility of concluding that the decision was not authentic?

      My recent post Less hopeful?

  2. Thanks, HO. What Canon Andrew said is exactly the opposite of what the

    "It *does not mean the process by which the ministry of women is accepted in the Church*. Instead it is used to refer to the process in which the Church of England reflects with the universal Church on the authenticity of its decision to ordain women".

    Quite what the second sentence is supposed to mean I have no idea, given that the CofE has ploughed on with revisionist reforms regardless of the ecumenical difficulties that this has caused with Rome and the Orthodox, but it seems perfectly clear from the plain meaning of the words that reception is intended to be a "testing-out" period.

  3. It also strikes me as curious that at a time when revisionists are pushing the James Jones principle on sexuality – i.e. it doesn't really matter, can't we all just get along? – they are working against the same principle when it comes to women bishops. Where is the logic in saying that we must respect the consciences of those who can't live with orthodox teaching on sexuality, but not the consciences of those who can't live with women priests and bishops?

    It seems like special pleading to me, and I am irresistibly reminded of Neuhaus' Law:

    "Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed".

  4. I get very worried that someone as highly placed in the Church of England as Andrew Godsall, let alone the bishop to whom he refers, doesn't know (or has forgotten) the definition of 'period of reception' to which Hopeful Ordinand draws attention. If the hierarchy really don't know what it means, what hope is therefore the rest of the Church?

    The trouble is not only that history tends to be rewritten but that facts give way to opinion. Just as an observation, I did cover all this in my earlier post here, but I doubt Andrew can have read that.

  5. I think what the Archbishop says is helpful here: "I made it clear in the interview with the Catholic Herald – and will continue to do so – that I see no theological justification for any revisiting of this question and indicated in the interview three times that I had no wish to reopen it, whatever technical possibilities might theoretically exist." No re-visiting. No theological justification.
    Our Canon Theologian tells me reception is a much older process than Newman….

    • Source?

      The Archbishop (presumably Canterbury) has no wish to reopen the issue. That's not quite the same as saying the issue won't be revisited. I'm not aware that an Archbishop can make that decision – he's not the Pope!
      My recent post Less hopeful?

  6. The source is the Archbishop of Canterbury's website.
    There is a really helpful source of discussion for the question of reception at
    It is by The Revd Prebendary Dr Paul Avis
    Director: Centre for the Study of the Christian Church
    and General Secretary: Council for Christian Unity
    The Revd Canon Laurence Gunner
    Directing Staff: St George’s House, Windsor Castle
    It's worth a read as part of our dialogue
    It seems, whatever spin one wants to put on it, that the bishops are clear that 'as previous debates have shown, a majority of the members of the House strongly support the admission of women to the episcopate'. It is quite true – the Archbishop can't make a decision. But the C of can hardly 'un-ordain' the severla thiusand women Priests can it?

    • You might as well say 'on the internet'! How about a link to it?

      The question of reception might be interesting, and the site may be helpful – however, the definition used when thinking about the ordination of women is very clear. The document on women bishops (linked to by me, and John), is explicit about what a 'period of reception' means in this context.

      Are you trying to revise what was meant at the time, and what is clearly meant now?
      My recent post Less hopeful?

      • There's something quite disturbing in Andrew's approach to this issue which betrays a great deal. When pointed to what the Church of England itself officially produced and endorsed (the Rochester Report), his response is to quote individuals who by themselves do not in their opinions represent the mind of Synod or the House of Bishops or those officially appointed to represent them, and to then use those quotes to disregard the official position. What Andrew is essentially saying is that the Rochester Report counts for absolutely nothing, but his one or two quotes from utterly unofficial and unauthoritative sources are the plumbline by which everything else should be measured.

        Revisionism in its true sense.

      • I suggest you read the link HO to see what it says.
        And the archbishop of Canterbury's website is not THAt had to find is it?

        • I did, but it contained nothing relevant to this discussion. The paper on the CofE website would seem to contain the necessary definitions.

          The Archbishop's website isn't that hard to find, no. I even tried hard to find the interview you referred to, however, as I'm sure you can imagine, he's done quite a few since becoming the Archbishop, and I'm afraid I gave up after a while. So, please, state your source.
          My recent post Less hopeful?

          • I don't think you'll have any luck here HO. Andrew isn't really into the game of substantiating things he relies upon for his argument.

            He also seems to taking the view that the ABoC determines Anglican doctrine. This from a cathedral canon…

            • I thought this was about order, not doctrine. And I have expressly said the A of C does not determine this. But interesting that the great majority of our bishops take the same view on this. If you really think there will be a change of direction about ordaining women, then I suggest you think quite hard about that. It was decided decisively nearly 20 years ago, and as along ago as the 1970s the C of E took the view that there were no theological objections.
              Perhaps you could now answer my question about whether you consider Mary Glasspool to be a bishop? And if you don't, what's the fuss about?

              • If a priest is alter christus at the Eucharistic table then immediately that raises Christological questions. Have a read of the FiF response to the Manchester group and you'll see that this is for some a doctrinal issue.

                • But do you believe the priest is alter christus Peter? Are you taking the FiF position on this question?

                  • I'm not sure I believe it quite in the manner that some might. I would prefer to say that the priest is the locus for the ecclesia's sacramental engagement with Christ.

                    • And that would be my preference as well. See what dialogue can do? We end up agreeing sometimes! (And note that this is a revisionist position – but revision can be a very good thing. it is simply about taking a fresh look at things in the light of changed and greater understanding.)
                      And once at that preference, the discussion is about how the Church orders itself for such an engagement. And the great majority of Anglican provinces have concluded that women may preside over the ecclesial gathering. The C of E concluded decades ago there was no theological reason for them not to.

                    • BUT you've still ignored the definition of "reception" that was originally defined in the documents discussing WO (in favour of a new definition that suits your purposes and those of the people who support your position). Is that "speaking the truth in love" or just cold ecclesiastical politicking?

                      BTW Can you honestly claim to be in a conversation about WO here? You seem to me to just be using the forum to test out various arguments for WO – with no real interest in engaging directly with people's arguments if they refute your beliefs – n'est-ce pas?

          • The paper I linked to is from theological advisers to the House of Bishops and it is about the idea of reception HO so it contains everything pertinent to our discussion.
            The Archbishop of Canterbury link is here:
            It is very odd that some of you want the archbishop to speak out more – about Mary Glasspool for example. but when he does speak out ,you say – well he is only the Archbishop, what he says can't really this another of those double standards I wonder?!

            • Your link is to a summary of a conference sponsored by the Centre for the Study of the Christian Church and St George’s House. It may have had people who sit on advisory committees taking part, but that does not make it an authentic statement of policy.

              The relevant definition is that specified in the document. If not, then I'm going to take 'reception' to mean 'a gathering with drinks and nibbles where people mingle and chat sociably'. I'm confident I can find plenty of documents that make that definition, some of them from very high ranking members of Church of England. I am now very disappointed to miss the period of reception that seems to be about to end. Was the food good?
              My recent post Less hopeful?

              • But do you really believe the C of E is going to stop ordaining women HO? Or say to the thousands they have ordained that they were really not ordained after all and they need to leave their orders behind? That's the crunch question…. and I think our Archbishop sums up the response pretty well, don't you?

                • You've changed the focus of the discussion. However, let me quote the Archbishop of Canterbury, taken from the same interview, this time the source is the Guardian:

                  When he was then asked whether there was any going back, he said: "I don't see how there can be. I could just about envisage a situation in which over a very long period the Anglican Church thought again about it, but I would need to see what the theological reason for that would be and I don't see it at the moment."

                  So, there is the possibility of going back, if the theological position was there; the Archbishop doesn't see that at the moment – he, or someone else, might see it in the future.
                  My recent post Less hopeful?

                  • I can't see how it is changing the focus HO – it was about reception – and whether the understanding of that concept you favour could allow for the possibility that the C of E would change its mind. Now any archbishop might see it differently – as we have seen, the Archbishop has very limited powers in deciding such things. But the great majority of Anglican provinces ordain women. So I ask you again – even though there is the technical possibility that we might re-visit the question – given that the vast majority of our bishops (who teach and lead our church), and the great majority of Anglican provinces ordain women, do you really think it likely – in the real and practical world – we we will reverse the decision?

                    • "the understanding of that concept you favour" is precisely the focus of the current discussion.

                      Does the document (this one)make it explicitly clear what is meant by 'a period of reception' in the context of the ordination of women?
                      My recent post Less hopeful?

                    • I'm not sure HO. What is your anser to the question – even though there is the technical possibility that we might re-visit the question – given that the vast majority of our bishops (who teach and lead our church), and the great majority of Anglican provinces ordain women, do you really think it likely – in the real and practical world – that we will reverse the decision?

                    • That's not the focus of this discussion, so one more time:

                      Does the document make it explicitly clear what is meant by 'a period of reception' in the context of the ordination of women?
                      My recent post Less hopeful?

                    • As I've said, I'm just not sure. That's one for the House of Bishops – and I've pointed to the thinking of their theological advisers. The focus of the discussion is whether the period of reception would allow for the C of E changing its mind on something it has been committed to for quite a long time. I'm asking you whether you think, even though there is the technical possibility that we might re-visit the question – given that the vast majority of our bishops (who teach and lead our church), and the great majority of Anglican provinces ordain women, do you really think it likely – in the real and practical world – we we will reverse the decision?

                    • How can you be unsure. Either it's clear, or it isn't! The document is very clear about what it means by a period of reception. To suggest otherwise would seem to be wilful revisionism.

                      I don't really see the relevance of your question? Are you saying that we should keep doing it, because we are currently doing it? That by entering a period of reception, we are committed to it – even if, on reflection, it's decided that it's not authentic?
                      My recent post Less hopeful?

                    • It's relevant because it helps test the practicality of your understanding of reception. No worry if you don't want to answer. I'm with Archbishop Rowan – I don't see how there can be any going back.

                    • It appears though that you have conceded the point that the *official* position of the Church of England is that it could go back on its decision. You may very well be right that it doesn't, but technically it still could.

                    • No, I think it is very unclear. 'The process in which the Church of England reflects with the universal Church on the authenticity of its decision to ordain women'… does not suggest that the C of E is going to CHANGE its mind.. it has made the decision.. it can't go back on it,. but it can reflect with the Universal church whether it was right (which it thinks it was) and whether otehrs might come to similar conclusions. That is certainly one way of understanding. I think we are in a process of reception about all kinds… we onhly see through a glass darkly after all..

                    • Sorry, I don't see how it helps. We are in a clearly defined period of reception on the issue of the ordination of women. There are practical issues to consider going forwards or backwards.
                      My recent post Less hopeful?

                    • It's 28-10 on the ordination of women priests, but I think the number are somwhat more balanced when you look at province membership. The 25million in the Church of Nigeria (who don't ordain women as deacons) make it somewhat more balanced. (Source: wikipedia)
                      My recent post Less hopeful?

  7. “We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.” (C S Lewis)

    We could simply stop ordaining women. The majority aren't necessarily right. There will be no going back once we have women 'bishops', and the Church of England looks to follow the same path of TEC into decline.

    If anyone is in any doubt of this, check out WATCH's website. They are already in bed with the homosexualists, (figuratively speaking), and there is already talk of 'Mother God' and more inclusive language in the liturgy.

    We should take heed of the Glasspool consecration. Do we really want this in the C of E?

  8. I wouldn't mind so much the trashing of the Church of England's liturgy, theology and doctrine over the last fifty odd years so much if it had actually led to growth and revival. But it hasn't.

    I have this challenge for revisionists: look at areas of growth in the Christian world. Some of the most striking are traditional ascetic monastic orders and seminaries in the Catholic tradition, and in the Protestant world, Bible-believing Evangelical congregations with a strong focus on evangelism and discipleship. In short, churches that teach a rigorous, challenging, transforming Gospel that defies the spirit of the age. TEC and the mainstream Anglican Church are fading and dying because they are no longer salty.

    It strikes me as significant that whenever we are told by revisionists that we must accept an innovation because "the Spirit is doing a new thing", that new thing almost always looks a lot like the contemporary obsessions of society's fashionable opinion-formers.

      • Could either you or Niall suggest why numbers are a criterion for what is 'salty', for where the Spirit is moving? How many people were with Jesus at the cross?

        in friendship, Blair

        • They're not. I really dislike using 'numbers' as a measure for this kind of thing – as I alluded to in another post. The measurement should be about faithful gospel teaching, growth in Christ. However, those things are quite hard to measure!

          Having said all that, my observation is that faithful, biblical. evangelical churches, who preach the gospel tend to see growth in numbers.
          My recent post Less hopeful?

  9. More questions, in no particular order…. not necessarily expecting any to be answered:

    …does the C of E have what you might call 'agreed criteria' for discerning what issues are first- or second-order? (I've never seen any debate setting out why a given 'issue' is deemed first-/second-order – am aware that doesn't mean none has happened…. but do have an impression that, for instance, 'the gay thing' has become first-order for little reason other than that some people have declared it one. Is there a good argument as to why it's first-order?)

    …what about Matthew 5:25?

    …how and when do you end a "period of reception" (and what would be signs that the time might be right…)?

    …why are we Christians so determined to win, to vanquish our opponents' arguments, when we claim to be following a poor man who was executed aged 33?

    in friendship, Blair

    • I'll answer your questions in order.

      i) No

      ii) What about it? We're not going to court are we?

      iii) When we all pretty well agree that what we did was right (or wrong). There is no way we are at that place yet.

      iv) How do you know he was a poor man or that he was executed aged 33?

  10. Blair, I'll write a longer reply later, but on the fourth point, I don't think most Christians claim simply to follow a poor man who was executed aged 33. I think they do claim to follow Jesus Christ, True Man and True God, the Eternal Word made flesh.

    I think quite a lot of Christians also believe that if we don't vanquish our opponents' arguments, then this could have eternal repercussions for those who are deceived.

    • Hi Niall,

      am aware what most Christians would claim but my phrasing was deliberate, to sharpen the point. I may be wrong (not that I like to think so :) ) but it seems to me there's something pretty incongruous about any of us claiming to follow Jesus while being so uncharitable to our opponents (meaning within the church in this instance). How do you hope to be treated if you turn out to be wrong – about something, anything, even something quite small? Like me, do you hope that those who tell you you're wrong give you a soft landing, rather than gloating or flaunting their being right? Have wandered slightly from the point of my original question though – a sense that Jesus' acceptance of defeat, death, puts a hard question against my (and others'…) desires to win and see our opponents lose.

      in friendship, Blair

  11. Thank you :)

    1) Given it's a no, what then…? Bishops wrestling at dawn (joke)?

    2) 'To court' apparently isn't in the Greek text (sez my NRSV, so there) – so am still suggesting it's relevant… & most of us aren't, say, farmers but that doesn't mean we bin the parable of the sower…

    3) I suspect you're right…

    4) "…but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head…" – is there any evidence or any tradition that Jesus was rich (am meaning in worldly / material terms)? Aged 33 – had some vague idea that that would have been his age at the crucifixion but can't remember where I got that from – open to being told it's rubbish! (But born in 4BCE and crucified in 30CE would make him 33… anything in that?)
    In any case no 4 is the only one you didn't answer…

    in friendship, Blair

    • i) The problem arises because of the artificial separation of truth. From where I'm coming from there is no "second-order" truth. Truth is truth is truth.

      ii) Judge and prison are in the text ("kristes" and "phulake"). Yes, court is added into some english translations, but it is a correct assumption to make (otherwise where are the judge and prison?).
      Quick aside – try reading Matt 5 as a soteriological exercise – quite surprising how much depth there is to be plumbed doing that.

      iii) That's good to know

      iv) I think you're missing the point of my question. *How* do you know that he was poor and 33. I agree with you he was poor and 33, but how do you know?

      • Hi again,

        i) But how does that view 'cash out' in terms of how it's lived?

        ii) Point taken that adding 'to court' "is a correct assumption to make" but I am still maintaining that's a relevant text! …and was wondering, originally, how people would read 'come to terms with your adversary' as applied to this debate. Not sure what you meant by reading Matt 5 as a soteriological exercise, tho'.

        iii) Not a lot more to say other than to wonder how ironic you're being ;)

        iv) Bit confused now – thought I suggested previously how i might know (i.e., from Scripture and elsewhere, as the Bible doesn't say that Jesus was born in 4BCE)….

        in friendship, Blair

    • Shorter Canon Andrew:

      "Words mean what I want them to mean. All CofE practices and doctrines are up for grabs, except revisionist ones, which – once imposed – cannot possibly be re-examined or rejected."

  12. I think as I continue to reflect on the meaning of this phrase 'period of reception' I can understand why some would like it to mean 'trial period'. None of the documents that I read give me that sense. David asks me here whether I really want to bring arguments about the ordination of women. I have no need to. The Church of England has decided that question in the same way that it has decided any question about its own orders. And we are in a period of reception about ALL of our orders, not just women in orders. The Universal Church does not accept the validity of what we have done in ordaining men, let alone women. And we have been in a period of reception about that since the Reformation. My guess is that period of reception will go on for some time yet as well. As will the period of reception about the Elizabethan settlement….(continued…)

  13. (continued)…reception is something the church lives with as a permanent feature. To assume it means 'trial period' doesn't do the concept justice. So whilst the technical possibility exists that we may change our mind about ordaining women, it exists in the same was as the technical possibility exists that we will stop ordaining men and re-join the Roman Catholic Church. In that sense everything is always 'up for grabs' in the Church on earth. But we live in hope. Until we live with the reality of heaven, we need to extend generosity to those with whom we may disagree – but with whom we still share the same table.

    • So, what do you think this means:

      The term ‘reception’ is one that is often used in
      relation to the debate about the ordination of
      women. The report explains that in Anglican usage
      this term has come to mean something very specific.
      It does not mean the process by which the ministry
      of women is accepted in the Church. Instead it is
      used to refer to the process in which the Church of
      England reflects with the universal Church on the
      authenticity of its decision to ordain women.
      My recent post Less hopeful?

  14. I think I've answered that question in many different ways HO. I think it is probably deliberately ambiguous. As I said in my previous post, the C of E is still reflecting within the universal church about its decision to ordain men….
    Let me ask you again the question that Peter answered. Do YOU think the C of E will actually change its decision? It's a church you are happy to be ordained into it seems. And I could also ask: have you brought any motions to your deanery synod, diocesan synod etc that asks the C of E to change the decision it made?

    • 1. That you have answered it different ways exposes the problem. There is a clear definition given.

      2. You're making an assumption that I'm opposed to the ordination of women. I don't recall giving an opinion on that issue.
      My recent post Less hopeful?

  15. Then if it is clear to you, it will also be clear that we are in a period of reception about the ordination of men into Anglican orders.
    Maybe you would like to be clearer now on whether you are in favour of the ordination of women to the Priesthood?
    And do you think the C of E is going to change the decision it made?

  16. I will await your answers before giving you the source. If you prefer not to answer, then you only need to say so,

  17. That's fine HO. I see that you prefer not to answer either question. Both are relevant to the discussion and you raised the matter of your opinion about the ordination of women, not me.
    If you believe that the Universal church HAS accepted the validity of Anglican orders, and that the period of reception for them is complete, then I think a little basic research will prove otherwise. There are plenty of places you can read about Apostolicae Curae.

    • You seem be in revision mode again. You asked me my opinion – that's been the only mention of it so far. My opinion (and, actually, my gender) is irrelevant to the discussion about the CofE being in a "period of reception" about the ordination of women, and how women bishops might affect that.

      The Apostolicae Curae is a papal bull. I don't see that it says that the Church of England is in a period of reception over the ordination of men.

      So, where is your source that states the Church of England is in a period of reception over the ordination of men?
      My recent post Less hopeful?

  18. Do you therefore believe that the Universal church has received he Anglican teaching about their own orders being valid? Where is your source for that?

    • Simple question: What is your source for asserting that the Church of England is considering the ordination of men in a period of reception?

      It can't be that hard, can it. I'd have thought it was fairly easy to provide the evidence. should it exist. Note that simply saying some other people think it's not valid isn't an argument – you need to demonstrate that the period of reception is within the Church of England.

  19. Simply question HO. Do you think the Church of England is ever going to stop ordaining women – note I've asked it about 5 times now!

    • I fail to see what relevance my option has, here – as I've said repeatedly. We're not discussing my opinion, the discussion is about whether the Church of England is reflecting over whether the ordination of women is authentic or not. The answer is… yes, the Church of England is reflecting.

      For some reason, you've made the (rather ridiculous) assertion that the Church of England is in the same 'period of reception' for the ordination of men. Without any evidence to support that assertion, it does look like a rather foolish statement to make.

      Even if it were true, that would rather reinforce the position of the ordination of women being in a period of reception, and your appeal to the authority of the Archbishop would be ill advised as, presumably, bishops are in a period of reflection too?
      My recent post Less hopeful?

  20. HO the rather key bit that you omit is that the 'Church of England reflects with the universal Church'.
    I'm quite happy to go on discussing and consider ARCIC and other joint statements about ministry and the position of our orders within the Universal Church (which is what reception is about). But I'm afraid that discussion will only take place now when you stop being anonymous. If you would like to have the discussion but do not wish to disclose who you are on here, then I will understand that and you are welcome to e-mail me for sources and documents. I think that's as fair as I can be.

  21. A good point from Tom Wright, saying much the same as I have been saying on this theme, and talking about the double standards that John Richardson tries to address:
    Tom Wright: I know, very well, that for some the issue is that Lambeth cannot decide such a thing while Rome, and perhaps also Constantinople, remains uninvolved. The obvious reply is that while Rome still officially treats Anglican orders as ‘absolutely null and utterly void’ it is hard to give them a veto on what we do with those orders, and that if we went that route we should have to return to the celibate priesthood and embrace the Papal dogmas. These are just as mandatory in Rome as male-only ordination, and I don’t know of a sustained argument as to why Anglicans who insist that only when Rome changes will we be allowed to do the same should be allowed to disagree with Rome on these other points.

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