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Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Bishops: a loss of trust

The desperate methods being employed to secure the ordination of women to the episcopate are now an embarrassment to the Church of England and in some respects look like a re-run of the vote in the Church in Wales in 2008 when their bishops thought they could ride roughshod over opponents. That measure was rejected for reasons explained in the following extract from a VirtueOnline special report:


Everyone who has been following the progress of moves to ordain women as bishops in the Principality will know that the enabling Bill failed on 2nd April. The bare bones of what happened are these: An amendment that would have given protection to traditionalists who could not accept the ordination of women by providing them with a bishop, was not passed.

When the substantive motion was then put to the vote of the Governing Body of the Church In Wales (CIW), it was assumed that it would go through on the nod. But curiously enough it did not. It failed by three votes to get the two thirds majority in the House of Clergy, one of the three houses of the Governing Body. The Bill therefore did not receive the necessary support.

We can conjecture as to why, unusually, this substantive motion was not approved after the amendment had been cleared out of the way. The reason is probably quite straightforward. When the draft Bill was published some months ago, Welsh traditionalists became concerned that nothing stronger than vague assurances over protecting their position would be put into the draft. This was in spite of the fact that under current arrangements there is a Provincial Assistant Bishop (PAB) who provides care for traditionalists. This post is currently held by Bishop David Thomas who is understood to be approaching the age of retirement.
[Bishop David Thomas retired in 2008. He was not replaced. - Ed]

The amendment was voted down it seems because the majority of members led by the Archbishop of Wales, Dr. Barry Morgan, opposed what they saw as "institutionalised schism" being brought into the Church. It is believed however that several fair-minded members of the Governing Body in the House of Clergy were unwilling to vote for the substantive motion which would almost certainly have stripped traditionalists of their PAB in the proposed new setup.

Any future pastoral provision would have had to depend on the goodwill (were it to exist) of the future bench of bishops of the CIW, a bench which could well by that time have included female bishops. However, we are bound to admit that had the Bill including its amendment been passed, it would have created severe difficulties for the CIW. What could these have been?

We have to remember that the CIW is reckoned numerically to be about the size of the Diocese of Oxford (a medium sized C. of E. diocese). Taken as a whole, the CIW is therefore very small, given that it is divided into six dioceses, each with its own bishop.

The present system in Wales employing a PAB (not unlike the Provincial Episcopal Visitor system in England) has worked quite well because the traditionalists' bishop has concentrated on his pastoral duties, while the diocesan bishops, all men it must be emphasised, have restricted their duties in traditionalist parishes to the jurisdictional and administrative side of their work. Boats have not been rocked to test the present compromise system to its limits.

The author Roland W. Morant went on to explain: "As was realised in England a year or more ago when discussion was taking place on women bishops there, when women bishops are introduced into an episcopal college of men (as would apply to the present bench of Welsh bishops), the system using a PAB (or in England, PEVs) would become unmanageable." - Please follow this link to read Mr Morant's explanation in full.

As indicated in the extract above, the Archbishop of Wales is a relatively big fish in a very small pond. He is unrepresentative of the views of the wider church so he must have been chosen to represent the liberal ruling clique as their representative on the Crown Nominations CommissionThe House of Bishops is showing the same cavalier attitude as Dr Morgan towards opponents in their 'Enough Waiting' campaign which has been condemned by a Barrister and Synod member in these terms: Bishops who pressure elected synod members to change their vote are suborning clergy and laity and inviting them to betray their electorate. Desperate to secure a 'yes' vote by whatever means a social media campaign has also been launched to encourage people to contact diocesan representatives and to use Facebook and Twitter to tell their friends to do the same thing regardless of whether they have any theological understanding of the issue, whether they attend church or not, or even if they are Anglicans.

This process has now lost all credibility. The Anglican church in England and in Wales is in a complete mess over the issue of women bishops. In Wales Dr Morgan is using sleight of hand to get the measure passed by their Governing Body having previously failed because traditionalists were ignored. In England bishops constantly retreat in the face of tirades from WATCH about demeaning women when according to many women in the church what they are doing is demeaning themselves and their sex. The Third Province provides a solution that enables both sides genuinely to respect the position of the other.
We need a fresh start. The measure should be rejected in the interests of unity so that our bishops can reflect on their actions and seek a solution acceptable to ALL. Otherwise the church as we know it is doomed. 

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