Choose your own bishop: Williams, Sentamu tell anti-female forces

Updated: Thinking Anglicans rounds up the media reports.

Thinking Anglicans has the story about a joint amendment proposed this morning to legislation permitting women to become bishops in the Church of England. The Church of England’s General Synod meets July 9-13.The archbishops released a statement that is excerpted below.

Monday 21 June 2010

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have signalled their intention to propose jointly in due course an amendment to the draft legislation to enable women to become bishops in the Church of England due to be debated at General Synod in July. This note explains their reasoning.



1. We owe a great debt of gratitude to the Revision Committee for their dedicated and painstaking work. We wish, however – after much consideration, and after discussion in the House of Bishops – to offer legislative amendments to the Draft Measure which we believe might provide a way forward for the Church of England. We want as many people as possible to feel that there is good news for them in this process, and we hope that what we are suggesting may help secure the broadest degree of support for the legislation without further delaying the process of scrutiny and decision….abcwithahataby.jpg

3. The issue that has proved most difficult to resolve in securing these two objectives has been that of ‘jurisdiction’. Once women become bishops, it will be possible to maintain something like the present ‘mixed economy’ in the Church of England only if there is provision for someone other than the diocesan bishop to provide episcopal oversight for those who are unable to accept the new situation. The need for such provision is widely accepted. But what is still much debated is what should be the basis in law for the authority exercised by a bishop in this kind of ministry….

5. The amendments we intend to propose involve neither delegation nor depriving a diocesan of any part of his or her jurisdiction. Instead we seek to give effect to the idea of a ‘co-ordinate’ jurisdiction….

6. What this would mean is that:

the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop – whether male or female – remains intact; he or she would remain the bishop of the whole area of the diocese and would be legally entitled to exercise any episcopal function in any parish of the diocese;

• where a parish had requested arrangements, by issuing a Letter of Request, the diocesan would in practice refrain from exercising certain of his or her functions in such a parish and would leave the nominated bishop to exercise those functions in the parish in question;

• the legal authority of the nominated bishop to minister in this way would derive from the Measure itself – and would not, therefore, be conferred by way of delegation; but the identity of such a bishop and the scope of his functions would be defined by the scheme made by the diocesan for his or her diocese, in the light of the provisions contained in the national statutory Code of Practice drawn up by the House of Bishops and agreed by General Synod;

• thus both the diocesan and the nominated bishop would possess ‘ordinary jurisdiction’; the diocesan would retain the complete jurisdiction of a diocesan in law, and the nominated bishop would have jurisdiction by virtue of the Measure to the extent provided for in the diocesan scheme – in effect holding jurisdiction by the decision of the Church as a whole, as expressed in the Measure;

• in respect of the aspects of episcopal ministry for which the diocesan scheme made provision, the diocesan and the nominated bishop would be ‘co-ordinaries’, and to that extent, their jurisdiction could be described as co-ordinate – that is to say, each would have an ordinary jurisdiction in relation to those matters; and

• the Code of Practice would contain guidelines for effective co-ordination of episcopal functions so as to avoid duplication or conflict in the exercise of episcopal ministry….

15. We believe that the amendments secure two crucial things:

1. that women ordained to the episcopate will enjoy exactly the same legal rights as men within the structures of the Church of England and that there will be no derogation of the rights of any diocesan bishop, male or female; and

2. that those who request oversight from a nominated bishop under a diocesan scheme will be able to recognise in them an episcopal authority received from the whole Church rather than through delegation or transfer from an individual diocesan.

Can we stop pretending that Rowan Williams is valiantly trying to hold together the warring factions of blah, blah, blah and just acknowledge that when it comes right down to it, he will abandon any member of the Communion to his left in order to placate any member of the Communion to his right?

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  1. How disappointing but not surprising. I guess ABC and ABY think women and gays will just “take it” because we love the church so much. Seems like many an abusive relationship I have seen.

  2. EH Culver

    The “A” word, “Abusive,” is the operative word here. It has no place in the Church’s vocabulary, except to be condemned. Thanks, Ann Fontaine, for speaking the truth to injustice.

  3. John B. Chilton

    Word, Ann.

    ABC chose to abuse his position in #mitregate. There’s no other word for it.

    As far as the proposed measure, it can’t be that easy. On the one hand, it’s unlikely to placate a single member of the anti-women bishops crowd. On the other, it sounds like nothing less than slight of hand that I’ve suggested before — simply make legislation symmetric by inserting his or her everywhere and pretend this applies equally to men and women bishops.

    Did the archbishops not read the Sunday lectionary? – there is no longer male and female.

    “Gala 3:23 (NRSV) Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”

  4. George Clifford

    Apparently, in Christ there is male and female – at least according to the ABC. If this were a matter of ethnicity or race, few in the Church would countenance such a policy. Continued equivocation in the name of unity must end. If a person is a new creation in Christ, then the former distinctions (gender, race, sexual orientation, etc.) are no longer relevant.

  5. Once again Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury (and the Lord of York) has avoided true moral leadership and compromised the end ¨message¨ of ¨we will have no injustice nor discrimination¨ at the C of E…furthermore, these men, yes men, contaminate true Christian/Anglican love for all in the name of a vile compromise that means nothing short of ¨women are inferior¨…shame on these men who are well educated yet ignorant of basic human decency…they are compromised in dangerous ways for all. Resign, both.

  6. 1. that women ordained to the episcopate will enjoy exactly the same legal rights as men within the structures of the Church of England and that there will be no derogation of the rights of any diocesan bishop, male or female; …


    What if a parish insists upon oversight from a female bishop? A way to protest if this foolishness passes?

    June Butler

  7. Fred Schwartz

    The amendment speaks of the ability to cross borders. We have argued since day one agianst this. ABC now codifies that crossing borders for the purpose of “alternative oversight” is not only okay but should be invoked on a regular basis.

    Anyone want to hazard a guess as to the punishement for Greg Venables, Peter Akinola and the rest?

  8. Is there a provision allowing people to choose their own Archbishop of Canterbury?

  9. Dennis Bosley


    You comments imply that Archbishop Williams has no authentic position of his own but is simply placating the right when, in your opinion, he should be placating the left.

    Dennis Bosley

  10. No, Dennis, they imply that the archbishop should not stop the Church of England from going where its General Synond has time and again said it wants to go.

  11. John B. Chilton

    The amendment proposed by the ABC contradict his thinking in October of 2007 about the essential integrity of the diocese within the Anglican Communion. Expediency — is that a Christian virtue?

  12. Dennis Bosley

    So, you don’t think he and the Archbishop of York have the right to offer an amendment? As I vaguely understand the process, it’s not required that the synod accept the amendment offered.

    You seem angry that the Archbishop has offered an amendment with which you don’t agree and imply that he should not have voiced it.

    Dennis Bosley

  13. Not angry. And not much interested in pursuing a conversation with someone’s whose first tactic is to put words in my mouth. He’s got a right to propose the amendment, and I have a right to say he is pandering to the right-most wing of his church, and that this has become something of a pattern with him.

  14. Well, it will be interesting to see how this flies, if at all. It seems to me, really, to be quite high stakes for Canterbury and for York. If it passes, they will simply create chaos in their own church. As has been noted, this door can indeed swing both ways, and significantly undermine structural integrity, and even the the concept of the basic (but neither sufficient nor independent) structure of the Church. On the other hand, if it fails in Synod (for, as has been noted, for those opposed to ordination of women to the episcopate any legally enforceable jurisdiction by a woman bishop is unacceptable) it will demonstrate significant loss of influence and authority of both archbishops.

    No, I don’t see how any good can come of this – including the retention of the anti- crowd in the arguments on ordination of women.

    Marshall Scott

  15. John B. Chilton

    Pulling several of the ideas above together points to the manipulative nature of this maneuver. ABY and ABC have every procedural right to recommend amendments. But by putting their reputation at stake in a case where the synod has consistently indicated women bishops should be the equal of men, they are attempting to give second thoughts in the minds of those who prefer not to undercut the authority of archbishops in the church.

    It’s all about fear of loss of membership. Don’t fear — you’ve already made yourself the laughingstock of the unchurched.

  16. Matthew Cadwell

    “9. Since the amendments would not divest the diocesan bishop of any jurisdiction, they would involve no change in the Church of England’s understanding of the episcopate. But for those seeking ministry under this provision from a nominated male bishop, there would no longer be the difficulty that this authority was derived in law from an act of delegation by an individual diocesan.”

    So, can parishes only nominate a male bishop or can parishes that would like to nominate a female bishop when the diocesan is male? It seems to me that fair is fair. But ultimately, this just creates a mess and no one knows who’s in charge.

  17. If the ABC (and ABY) thinks that this plan will prevent the Church of England from either splitting over women’s ordination or being dis-established by being discriminatory, I am afraid that they are both very wrong.

    This plan will have the practical effect of createing two churches on the ground, one that ordains women and one that does not. Maybe more will pop up under this plan. Ones that have women bishops but female clergy and on and on….

    This will make the church look even more irrelevant and ridiculous to the public. The church will not lead or inform public discourse, but become (even more?) a side-show.

    So I suspect that, should the scheme pass, it will aid the argument that it is no longer in Britain’s national or constitutional interest to continue to have an established church.

    If the archbishops succeed in this scheme, they will prevent nothing they fear and could lose everything they value.

    Andrew Gerns

  18. tobias haller

    Why is it that such “schemes” to satisfy minority constituencies only seem to favor the reactionary or traditionalist wing, and not the progressive or liberal wing?

  19. Two possibilities, Tobias? One is numbers and possible finances – the Africans and the “conservatives” have the backing of some very wealthy Americans? Whether they would be willing to share with England is questionable. Their primary aim is to destroy opposition to their wealth accumulation in the US. Liberal Episcopalians and others stand in their way and need to be splintered so they can’t provide organized opposition.

    The second possibility is pressure from Parliament to maintain good relations with African countries which have mineral assets England needs?

  20. Jeffrey L. Shy, M.D.

    @ Tobias,

    I think that the problem may be that we have given the “reactionary/traditionalists” the wrong label (ditto with “conservative”). The problem is that the “other side” includes persons who are not traditional/conservative but absolutists in their orientation. They see the matters as one of completely black and white and brook no possibility, now or over, that they will ever believe things to be otherwise because it is impossible that they should be otherwise. This is also why the moral absolutists laugh at and are useless to involve in dialogue as their position is, axiomatically, one that is immovable. I think that we need to stop referring to the “other side” as traditional, conservative, etc., because those labels are inadequate. You can compare that to their favorite moniker for us “revisionists” by which they mean people who are trying to change things that are, of themselves, immutable.

  21. Derek Olsen

    I don’t see this working.

    Without a completely separate structure, traditionalists won’t be properly assured that a particular male priest that they come across is validly ordained in their eyes.

    Furthermore, within a generation, priests consecrated by women bishops would be consecrated as well blurring even the obvious gender lines…

    So, knowing the traditionalist viewpoint, even this won’t be enough for many of them.

  22. tobias haller

    Jeffrey, spot on. It is absolutism that carves one out from the world of ambiguities and tensions… Witness comments from FiF leaders today! Appeasement is never enough!

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