Rowan to Katharine: don’t wear your mitre in England

From Hugh Muir’s Diary in The Guardian:

Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the US church and the first woman ever to lead an Anglican province, preached at Southwark Cathedral last weekend despite muted hisses of disapproval by conservative evangelicals. But close observers would have seen there was something missing: no mitre on her head. Who could be responsible?

Step forward, Rowan Williams, Archbish of Canterbury, birthday boy (60 yesterday), who couldn’t stop her preaching but said she could not wear the symbol of her office, or carry a bishop’s crosier. Something to do with women bishops not yet being allowed in the C of E. A bit petty, some say, as Jefferts Schori is indeed a bishop and head of her national church – but in any event, she carried the mitre. And the subject for her sermon: God welcomes everyone, regardless of dress or condition.

Muir also notes this news about the ordination of women as bishops in Church of England:

And, with women clergy in the C of E looking forward to next month’s vote in the general synod in York – which is expected finally to agree that women can become bishops here – word comes of a last-minute attempt to scupper the plans. And who is responsible for that? Step forward again, Williams, who with fellow archbishop John Sentamu is framing an amendment to put off yet again making any decision.

The Presiding Bishop is visiting New Zealand and Australia next.


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  1. Rod Gillis

    Soooo, When Benedict arrives in merry olde, he will no doubt also be told not wear any overt symbols of the papal office, since according to the 39 articles ( :, he hath no jurisdiction etc. O but wait, Benedict is a boy!

  2. The Archbishop of Canterbury increasingly reminds me of the mistress of a girls’ school who stalks the hallways with a ruler measuring to see whether skirts end too far above the knee.

  3. Peter Pearson

    This news is not surprising and it made me wonder about what it must be like to be the person trying to keep this all together knowing that the task is impossible. Could it be that he knows that the American Church is indeed very humble and willing to work to assist in this so long as nothing vital is compromised (like the dignity of LGBT folks) and that our Katharine has the grace and graciousness to allow herself to be chastised and censured for the sake of a greater good? Could it be that we are achieving our desired ends by non-aggressive means? If this is what is happening, even the Archbishop of Canterbury knows that change is happening all around him and the only thing he can to is to attempt to soften the blow. I do not envy that man his place in this drama nor do I envy Katharine’s prophetic role. Prophet’s tend to get knocked around a great deal.

  4. Peter,

    I could not agree more with your post. Thank you for putting it so well!

  5. Michael Russell

    Perhaps we could have a Bishop chime in on this. What is protocol for mitre wearing and crozier carrying when you are in someone else’s diocese?

  6. Dennis

    And still we find defenders of poor Rowan Williams among us. Amazing how much they twist their reasoning to find some small reason to defend the undefendable.

    Obviously Rowan suffers so much, having to force the communion to keep the women and the gays away from positions of service and responsibility.

    Of course that defense of Rowan is paired with calling our Presiding Bishop, who spoke remarkable words of peace, a “prophet,” implying that she somehow offended or made people uncomfortable (which is what prophets usually do). Interesting. I don’t want to call it anything other than interesting. Really.

    Yes, let’s continue to feel sorrow and worry about the horrible place that poor poor Rowan Williams has been placed in, being forced to show the back of his hand to the Episcopal Church, to refuse to invite Gene, a duly elected bishop of this church, by being forced to enforce a punitive covenant. It has all been so tough on him. He obviously has no control over his own actions or words. And nevermind the thousands upon thousands hurt and chased away from the gospel and the church by his actions. Let’s just feel sorrow for his pain and admiration for his strength through all his suffering. By his stripes were we healed, & etc.

    Dennis Roberts

  7. Robert Martin

    There is no easy solution to these problems. Our Church asks that none be scapegoated or left behind because of who they are and their lives before God.

    So, we must be willing to do the same. There are a great many people who are not yet where many in our Church are. In fact, there are many in our Church who are not where our Church is. Are we to tag these all as misfits and miscreants for not seeing as we see?

    Speak the Word, and prepare to be crucified, if you claim the mantle of prophet–what of it?

    If Rowan Williams does not agree with you on this matter, what of it? Would you break bread and take Communion with him? Yes or no?

    Does the answer depend on whether he would break bread and take communion with you?

  8. LKT

    Clearly it’s wearing the hat that makes a bishop a bishop. Good thing the Archbishop put the kebosh on the malevolent millinery or who knows what would have happened.

    Laura Toepfer

  9. John B. Chilton

    Excellent observation, Laura. May I suggest “militant millinery” as a more lasting alliteration?

  10. tobias haller

    Perhaps we need a Millinery Petition?

  11. Dä'ved Äyan | David Allen

    I had wondered how this was going to be handled. He has not let her vest as more than a priest in the past when in England, outside of Lambeth Conference.

    You know, she does not usually carry a bishop’s crozier, but a primate’s staff. So in Merry Olde England she not only frosts their cookies because she is a bishop, but a primate to boot!

  12. Dirk C. Reinken

    I’ve given up on trying to defend +Rowan, but the mitre and crozier issue make sense to me given England’s context. If +KJS is both preaching and celebrating (as she appeared to do), she has to function within the bounds of the CofE’s current rules. Since the CofE does not permit women bishop’s yet, she can only function as a priest (i.e., no ordinations or confirmations). That she can’t look like the bishop she is does seem a bit petty, but I can understand that.

    This also carries to men ordained by women. Because I was ordained by the Bishop of Rhode Island, I cannot preside at the sacraments in England. I know that Bishop Wolf of Rhode Island preached at Salisbury several times. As long as she also didn’t wear episcopal vesture, then I don’t think +KJS was singled out.

    As for the crozier, it is a symbol of jurisdiction, so it’s not appropriate for any bishop to carry out outside of her or his diocese. Some diocese’s won’t allow Suffragan’s, Assistant’s, etc. to carry a crozier because they don’t have the authority of a diocesan. Other dioceses or bishop’s don’t care because the crook (the staff, not the person) looks “bishop-y” and we like things to look “bishop-y”

    I would think the same should apply to a primatial cross since her primatial authority doesn’t extend to England’s shores (unless/until we decide to take up cross-border interventions, too!)

    This begs the questions – does +Rowan carry his primatial cross outside of England or does he have a different cross representative of his unique status is “First among equals”?

  13. John B. Chilton

    Oh. I just realized. The problem is she’s an openly female bishop instead of a wink-wink female bishop.

  14. tobias haller

    Dirk, an additional tradition is that of a suffragan carrying the crozier with the crook facing in, a diocesan with the crook facing out. Thanks for the reminder about the primatial cross — about which there are similar traditional rules… for those so inclined to the minutiae!

  15. Tobias has a new item at his blog on the Millenary Position, er Petition.

    re-reading +KJS sermon in light of this further information on the ABCs dress code for her – makes one wonder and laugh.

    and photos of the woman with uncovered hair here

  16. Phillip Cato

    It would appear that nothing agitates us Episcopalians more than attire. This lends credence to the oft-repeated canard that Wippels is the only thing holding the Anglican Communion together.

    For my part, I would like to see PECUSA bishops revert to wearing the old black and white rochet and chimere and disavowing mitres entirely. It would be distinctly American and would remove the taint of medieval pomp. We have nothing to show off for and no one to show off to. We could make this move as an expression of humility, go on our way, extending hospitality to the fancier dressed should they deign to grace our shores, and beginning again to look distinctly American, which is what we are. Enough of all this finery. The Romans, given their spectacular moral failures and disarray, simply look silly when they get all dressed up and pomp around St. Peter’s Square. It is high time that our leadership adopt distinct church attire among the over-dressed ecclesiastics who scorn us.

  17. Peter Pearson

    I think Dennis’ posting entirely misses the point. No one is defending the Archbishop, but it is not wise to be too simplistic or cynical or sarcastic. This is, after all about the Gospel and the Reign of God. Even if we are right, that doesn’t give us permission to be ugly about it. At least that’s how I understand it.

  18. Don Brownlee

    In other words, the Archbishop asked for a Millinery Moratorium?

  19. Dä'ved Äyan | David Allen

    No one has a photo of her carrying the miter as she walked in procession?

  20. Carol Cole Flanagan

    The Presiding Bishop does not carry a crozier. In cases where multiple bishops are present, the only bishop entitled to carry a crozier is the bishop of the jurisdiction in which the service takes place.

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