Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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.

7 Comments on “Between a Rock and a Hard Place

  1. Surely the problem is that for many people within the Church of England the opinion that women shouldn’t be bishops falls outside that range of opinions that deserve any level of respect or acknowlegement?

  2. They (WATCH) have shown us precious little respect so far – why should they start now?

    They have not even done us the courtesy of being honest enough to acknowledge the theology behind objections to women’s ordination, preferring instead to use public ignorance as a lever to get their own way.


    • Perhaps, Jill, they think the CofE is not the Roman Catholic Church and shouldn’t adopt its sacramental theology (Alter Christus and all that). They probably think Benedict cut the Gordian Knot after the dithering of Rowan Williams and gave you a provision in the Ordinariate, so the CofE doesn’t need Flying Bishops any more. The whole problem has been resolved for them by what others see as Benedict’s lure.
      Only playing Devils Advocate, you understand…

    • I think you will find that WATCH are very aware of the theology behind the objections but disagree with it. It would be rather nice if respect & courtesty occasionally headed in the other direction too. There’s little enough of it in this blog or Jill’s response.

    • I can just see the headline in the Guardian: ‘Bigotted women priests reject CofE offer to respect theology of those who deny them equality in the workplace’. I don’t know how they’ll survive the bad publicity.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.