Changing 5.1.c

A number of proposals for reworking clause 5(1) c of the Women Bishop’s Measure have been published. Here’s the offering by Miranda Threlfall-Holmes.

Therefore, the legislation:

3.1  Must allow women bishops with no element of discrimination, against either them or male bishops who participate in their consecrations, or male clergy who are ordained or consecrated by them. In other words, there must be no ‘no go’ areas for women bishops, as otherwise the primary purpose of the legislation has not been fulfilled.

3.2  Similarly, there must be no separate track for male clergy who have not associated with women bishops. This is important because otherwise it is possible to anticipate women bishops being effectively sidelined by male colleagues who wish to maintain the widest field of career options open to them. Such unintended discriminatory consequences are well known to occur in related fields such as maternity rights, and again would mean that the primary purpose of the legislation was not being fulfilled.

3.3  Must not give the impression, either deliberately or inadvertently, that there are two alternative views about the validity of women’s ordination held simultaneously by the Church of England as a Church.  It will, however, of course recognise that individual members of the Church of England will continue to hold differing views about the validity of this development, in order to pursue its secondary purpose. But it must be clear that the Church of England as a church believes that women’s ordination is valid.

3.4  Must not seek to protect or promote the theological view, as such, that women’s ordination is unacceptable.

3.5  Must seek to assure all members and parishes of the Church of England that the Church is committed to their flourishing and to their growth, regardless of their views on this matter. It must do this without being seen to suggest that such growth is anticipated to come only through a change of heart on this matter.

With all that in mind, I propose that Clause 5.1.c be replaced with wording along the lines of that the Code must include arrangements:

‘To promote the flourishing of, and foster co-operation between, parishes whose PCCs have, and have not, signed Letters of Request under clause 3 of this Measure’.

This was my response.

I’m afraid that new clause is practically meaningless and doesn’t address the issue at hand which is the worry that traditionalist parishes will have bishops imposed on them who do not share their theological views.

And this is the heart of the matter. You write,

“Must not give the impression, either deliberately or inadvertently, that there are two alternative views about the validity of women’s ordination held simultaneously by the Church of England as a Church. It will, however, of course recognise that individual members of the Church of England will continue to hold differing views about the validity of this development, in order to pursue its secondary purpose. But it must be clear that the Church of England as a church believes that women’s ordination is valid.”

Here’s the problem. Your last sentence is completely correct. The official view of the Church of England is that there is no issue with the validity of women’s ordination. At the same time however there is a substantial minority who do not agree. The 1994 provisions explicitly recognised this constituency and validated their inclusion as full members of the CofE.

What your preamble does, in the same manner as others like it, is strip away from this constituency any notion that their position is a valid Anglican one. That was the whole point of 5.1.c, to recognise the variant theology of the traditionalists and to formally accommodate it. Remove any reference to recognising formally the theological differences (which is part of what 5.1.c did) and you produce a situation where, despite anybody’s “best intentions” and “goodwill”, the traditionalist position can be ignored by any future bishop, male OR female.

This is the heart of the debate and the reason why even ardent Women Bishop supporters like Pete Broadbent have a huge amount of problems with erasing 5.1.c. Get rid of 5.1.c and you to all intents and purposes create a situation where traditionalists can be “constuctively dismissed” from the CofE.

Square that circle if you can.

Without wanting to sound too vain, this issue that I’ve highlighted is the crux of the matter. Under the 1994 legislation the traditionalist position was formally recognised. Including 5 (1) c was a way of continuing that recognition. Without such formal recognition there is nothing legally to stop a future bishop ignoring it and giving a dissenting parish for oversight a bishop who doesn’t actually agree with them.

And as I wrote to Miranda, this is a hard circle to square. Either you have a clause similar to 5 (1) c OR you de facto push the traditionalists out in the medium to long term. Unless of course one of you lot can come up with a better solution?

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5 Comments on “Changing 5.1.c

  1. This is spot on from both you and from Miranda, Peter and on neither side is it a cause for rejoicing. I don’t at all see any way for the circle to be squared. Authority in the CofE can’t be fudged and divided. Either women can be bishops or they can’t and either way the Church will be split. There is no corporate unity if the consecration of women is recognised only in some places and not in others and there can be no imposed unity where their consecration must be accepted by those for whom it is an impossibility. I can’t see any compromise either way and a choice will have to be made – given that we’ve already tried and failed to accomodate irreconcilable views over the ordination of women, I can’t ultimately see the same ‘solution’ being tried again over consecration – but one way or the other a split will happen.

    • I think you are being much too idealistic! “Authority in the CofE can’t be fudged and divided.” is hardly a description of the current state of affairs – or of that which has pertained (more-or-less) since the CofE was formed!! The CofE is a patchwork of bishops, clergy, churches and congregants with differing and in some cases opposing theological convictions. If it were the conservative groups that were demanding a “pure church” on sometheological issue, most liberals would be waxing lyrical about the Elizabethan settlement or ranting about “puritans” but, when it comes to this issue, liberal purity has somehow become the only option!

      • I actually thought I was being pessimistic rather than idealistic. Whatever we do will create a split. A reworked clause 5.1.c is schismatic because it formalises two authorities whose Bishops don’t recognise each other. Consecrating women Bishops also divides the church by alienating the opponents. Maybe we can have a conscience clause over women bishops AND one over gay unions? Now that would be a new Elizabethan settlement….

  2. But there have been at least two agreements between people who differ on this – both groups were evangelicals – the polarisation is coming from other end of the CofE.

    Here’s an alternative set of principles based on the accepted reality that both theological convictions may be held with equal integrity, and be equally respected, within the CofE:

    ‘In order to fulfill the primary purpose of the legislation, the legislation must treat all bishops equally, whether male of female and whether they agree or disagree with women’s ordination or not. To protect and respect people who hold the majority and the minority theological conviction on women’s ordination, and to give space for them to flourish, it is inevitable that there will be ‘no go’ areas for people of each integrity, but restrictions must only be where necessary to protect and respect both integrities and they must be made in a proportionate manner. In particular, any restrictions must be based purely on the theological convictions regarding womens ordination of the bishops, clergy and churches in question.

    In other words, the ministries of men and women who cannot theologically accept the ministry of a female priest or bishop should be restricted equally (within the integrity of that conviction) to the ministries of men and women who can theologically accept the ministry of a female priest or bishops.

    So, I might propose that Clause 5.1.c be replaced with wording along the lines of that the Code must include arrangements:

    ‘That, to promote the flourishing of, and to protect and respect equally, parishes, clergy and bishops whose theological conviction do or do not allow them to accept the minstry of women priests and bishops, the Code of Practice must restrict the ministry of male and female bishops and priests, but these restrictions must be limited to only those parts of their ministry necessary to protect and respect the theological convictions regarding the ministry of male and female bishops and priests of the bishops, clergy and churches in question.’

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