|Photograph: Paul Hackett/Reuters|
No price is too high it seems to satisfy Rowan's longing to see women bishops in the Church of England. His 'unfinished business' of making satisfactory provision for all has been gradually whittled down in the House of Bishops to one word, respect. ‘With all due respect’ to Archbishop Rowan I think he deludes himself. The word 'respect' may have legal content in the Archbishop's book but Oxford Dictionaries has "a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements".
There is no evidence whatsoever that women lobbyists in WATCH, GRAS or DARC have respect for the views, let alone the abilities, qualities or achievements, of anyone but themselves in the advancement of their feminist cause. If there were, how is it that opponents are left with nothing but a vague notion based on a word that will be ignored in the same way that the pleas of opponents have been ignored thus far? To date every suggestion of a concession has been met with howls of anger and resentment claiming that the proposals are insulting to women and would make them second-class bishops. Rowan's grovelling apology [position 6.25] illustrates how successful their tactics have been while more traditional views of women in the church have been overlooked.
Archbishop Rowan said at the July 2012 General Synod in York: “I also long for there to be the kind of provision for those who continue to have theological reservations on this subject, for their position to be secured in such a way that they can feel grateful for the outcome. That is the essence of what I believe Synod at large still thinks despite the unfinished business of sorting out what that means in practice.” His statement gave some hope that reason might prevail but that hope proved to be unfounded in the face of the petition organised by WATCH for the withdrawal of Clause 5(1)(c) on the grounds that it would “entrench permanent division in the Church” and “feed a deeply damaging ambivalence towards women as made in the image of God.” Many more women in the church are also 'made in the image of God' and they profoundly disagree with the claims of WATCH but their views have been ignored in a campaign which has been based on false accusations of discrimination and misogyny showing a complete lack of respect for opponents.
The campaign launched by Archbishop Rowan to persuade General Synod members to back the new women-bishops legislation next month makes sorry reading. It would be presumptuous of me to argue against Rowan on theological grounds but however skillfully he weaves his justification for the ordination of women on the basis of their 'baptismal relationship with Jesus Christ', what he presents as an anomaly is anomalous only because the Church of England has departed unilaterally from the faith and tradition of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. With all due respect, the majority of Christians, East and West do not believe that women should have been ordained into the priesthood. If Synod had first considered whether or not women should be ordained as bishops in the Church of England there could be no anomaly.
It cannot be right to vote in favour of the proposal simply to avoid public embarrassment or internal conflict. That would be the worst possible reason for supporting the legislation. What the church needs to do is to take a step back and think about what Synod is being asked to do in the name of every member of the Church of England. It is no coincidence that Synod is being asked to correct an 'anomaly' now that the 'equality' argument has been turned on its head since the true effects of the feminisation of the church are becoming apparent. If this legislation is allowed to go through there will be a seismic shift in the church resulting in her domination by women clergy. The ordination of women has not halted the decline in church attendance and voting in favour of women bishops will result in the inequality proponents of women's ordination complained about. That is the true anomaly.
* Read a full explanation here.