|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.
Two appeals supporting Archbishop Rowan's plea have appeared on The Archbishop of Canterbury website. The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, urges those who cannot support the legislation for conscientious reasons to abstain because we are all ‘one person in Jesus Christ’ while Rebecca Swinson provides a gender reversal justification based on Give me a child until he is seven and I'll give you the man having spent her formative years under predominately female influences.
Like the Archbishop of Wales before him the Bishop of Chelmsford picks out what he regards as a scriptural justification for choosing a pattern of ministry contrary to Christ's example. He quotes Galatians 3:28* as one of the ‘climatic’ passages in the Bible – ‘the one through which we then interpret many others’. Although the church interpreted the reference to Jew and Gentile within 20 years, we have had to wait 2,000 years for the Bishop of Chelmsford to decode the reference to male and female. If he had read John 14:6 instead - “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" - he would have had the key passage without the need to re-interpret what has been understood by most Christians for two millennia. Bishop Cottrell says: “…I hope that we in the Church of England will say yes to women bishops at our General Synod in November. I even dare to hope that those who disagree may choose to abstain. That those who aren’t sure will see that if we don’t pass this it would look terrible in the eyes of the world, would hold back our mission, and would also plunge us into years more debate on this issue. But, most of all, I’m going to be voting yes because I believe this is of the Gospel. It is the Holy Spirit leading us into the truth of that text whereby in Christ we are one humanity.” - Ah yes, the Holy Spirit, but only if it is a yes vote of course; otherwise, try again later!
Bishop Cottrell also says: "I know that there are some people who conscientiously disagree with this, and I respect them and I want them to be part of the Church along with everyone else. But I believe the Measure, as we have it, gives people that provision." - That word respect again. He 'respects' them but not with "a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements", just, I'll decide what provision is adequate so accept it. Does he understand what he is asking? Vote for the legislation to avoid losing face and if you can't agree, then abstain with all the consequences of inadequate provision. This is not about saving face. There is no question of abstaining; those who do not agree with the legislation must vote against it or risk losing everything they believe in.
Adding her message in the Archbishop’s campaign, Rebecca Swinson - the youngest-ever member of Archbishops’ Council – outlines why she wants to see the legislation for women bishops passed at this November’s Synod. Basically Rebecca thinks we have waited long enough and the danger is that too much time will be spent in the coming years discussing the issue when there are much more important things to debate such as the healthcare system and benefits. - Not if the decision is accepted as the work of the Holy Spirit. If the church had not embarked on this divisive scheme which has resulted in churches emptying in the UK and is seeing the ruin of TEC in the United States there would have been ample time to talk about things that 'really matter to people'. Rebecca claims that it is really important for the mission of the Church of England that we are able to show that women are an accepted and valued part of our ministry. Women already are an accepted and valued part of ministry. Ask the women who are indispensable in the work of Church. They don't feel the need to be ordained to prove it.
* Read a full explanation here.
* Read a full explanation here.