Formalizing a bad idea

by

UPDATED:

The Church of England’s commission that approves Episcopal appointments has unanimously approved the appointment of bishop who believes that only men can have pastoral leadership of a parish or diocese. His job would be to the bishop to parishes in dioceses that refuse to accept the ministry of women bishops. It also continues the official situation of two classes of clergy: those who accept ordination and sacraments conferred by women bishops and those who won’t.

Thinking Anglicans posted this news release:

At its meeting on 4 December the Dioceses Commission unanimously agreed with a proposal received from the Archbishop of Canterbury to fill the vacant see of Maidstone. The see, which had been vacant since 2009, had been identified by the Archbishop as one that should be filled by a bishop who takes a conservative evangelical view on headship.

This flows from the public commitment given by the Archbishops and the House of Bishops, in the run up to the final approval by the General Synod of the legislation to allow women to be admitted to the episcopate in July 2014 (see paragraph 30 of House of Bishops Declaration and the Archbishops’ note of June 2013 —GS Misc 1079).

In agreeing with the proposal to fill the see the Commission was conscious of the needs of the national church for a member of the College of Bishops to be able to act as an advocate for those who hold a conservative position on headship.

It made its decision on the understanding that the bishop would foster vocations from those taking this position; that he would undertake episcopal ministry (with the agreement of the relevant diocesan bishop) in dioceses in both Provinces where PCCs have passed the requisite resolution under the House of Bishops’ declaration; and that he would be available to act (again by invitation) as an assistant bishop in a number of dioceses.

While available to take his place in the Foundation of Canterbury Cathedral, the Commission understood that — given his potentially wide geographical remit — the bishop would not otherwise be expected to participate in the life of the Diocese of Canterbury.

Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of the St. Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow explains why this is a bad idea.

This has come about because the compromise that the Church of England has adopted over the consecration of bishops who happen to be women is to give an assurance that there will still be new consecrations of bishops who still refuse to accept that women can be consecrated as bishops.

This means that some bishops of the C of E will not accept that other bishops of the C of E are bishops at all.

I say that is a novelty and I say that the situation is absurd….

…All this is just a further extension of something that I think will probably one day be called (inaccurately) the Anglican Heresy. I think this heresy (which strictly speaking is more of a Church of England thing than something which affects most Anglicans in the world) is the notion that one should be able to accept or reject a bishop according to whether or not they fit with one’s theological peccadilloes. This seems to me to have come in initially through the ministry of suffragans who often seem to have been appointed to give “theological breadth” to episcopal oversight in any one diocese rather than to simply share in the episcopal oversight of the diocesan. Thus we have had evangelical parishes wanting to associate with and be on the receiving end of episcopal oversight from an evangelical bishop and anglo-catholics doing likewise.

Holdsworth points out that this “compromise” is one that is borne exclusively by women.

…my personal preference is that women should not have been expected to bear the price of the disunity of their fellow Christians. Women are being ordained as bishops in England but not on the same terms as men are ordained bishops. (Clergy and congregations will be able to formally opt out of their care – no-one has that option on male episcopal ministry). I’d prefer equality to what has taken place. What people then decide to do in a situation where men and women are regarded as equals is their business. I can see a case for allowing priests to continue in a church where they are out of sorts with the idea of women being consecrated as bishops but I see no way of resolving the ecclesiastical nonsense of continuing to consecrate men who won’t accept female episcopal ministry now. I wouldn’t turf anyone out but I certainly wouldn’t make the situation worse in this way.

In a second post, Holdsworth asks 10 Questions Arising From The Misogyny of a “Headship Bishop”:

  • To Members of Parliament: Are you really comfortable with 1 million children being educated every day by an organisation with these values?
  • To candidates in the next election: Will you support the disestablishment of the Church of England because organisations which behave in this way should have no privileged place in parliament?
  • To the Archbishop of Canterbury: Do you realise that this makes you personally look like a misogynist too as suffragan appointments are always personal to the bishop involved?
  • In the General Synod of the Church of England: …. and if people ask for a bishop with racist views to represent them, will we do that too?
  • To the BBC: Why are you not covering this story as a major news item?
  • To those who serve in Church House, Westminster: Why do progressive changes to the Church of England have to go through years of debate at General Synod and regressive ones don’t?
  • To Primates around the communion: Why is this novelty and abuse of the episcopate acceptable when the appointment of a man who happened to be gay was so unacceptable?
  • To the Prime Minister at Prime Minister’s Question Time: Does the Prime Minister share the concerns of many in this country that the Church of England is institutionalising misogyny.
  • To the silent Church of England Bishops who believe themselves to be liberal: How do you sleep?
  • To the first woman to be consecrated as bishop in the Church of England: Was it worth it on these terms?

Posted by Andrew Gerns, updated by Ann Fontaine

 

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Gary Paul Gilbert
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The Romans and Greeks are free to do as they wish, Chaz Brooks. I leave them to their difficulties.

But a bishop in the Episcopal Church must stand for equal protection within the denomination.

Separate but equal does not work.

Gary Paul Gilbert

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Chaz Brooks
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Chaz Brooks

What a cowardly cop out.

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Gary Paul Gilbert
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Chaz, Would you welcome the KKK to the table?

Gary Paul Gilbert

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Chaz Brooks
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Chaz Brooks

The Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches are as bad as the KKK in your view? You're not exactly talking me out of my perception that you're a hateful extremist here.

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Geoff
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The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches do not adhere to anything resembling an evangelical "headship" theology, and I think it verging on slanderous to attribute it to them.

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Jeremy Bates
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Jeremy Bates

Discriminating against women because they are women isn't a theological position. It's a sin.

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Chaz Brooks
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Chaz Brooks

As a moderate, I can't see much of a difference between you and the schismatics in that case. I want to figure out how to keep everyone at the table, even those I don't agree with, you and ACNA want to excommunicate those who disagree with you.

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Jeremy Bates
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Jeremy Bates

"I want to figure out how to keep everyone at the table."

What exactly do you mean by "at the table"?

We should keep talking with the Church of England, ACNA, and the Global South.

But it makes no sense for The Episcopal Church to align itself further with, or to take any direction from, Communion provinces and extra-Communion groups that are institutionally misogynistic or virulently homophobic.

The Anglican Communion is a family of independent churches. Nothing more.

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Geoff
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And for that reason, from the "moderates," good Lord deliver us!

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Gary Paul Gilbert
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Gary Paul Gilbert

Compromise on gender equality is unacceptable.

Gary Paul Gilbert

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Gary Paul Gilbert
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Gary Paul Gilbert

Misogyny should not be tolerated in the church. What's next? A bishop who teaches that it is wrong for people of color to lead congregations? This is the sort of nonsense that can be expected from an established church whose job is to bless the status quo.

Gary Paul Gilbert

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Chaz Brooks
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Chaz Brooks

Whatever. Just as long as you don't make any pretenses about compromise, via medias, big tents or all that bosh.

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Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Applying the notion of a "via media" to gender equality is a misapplication. Via media when it comes to things like vestments, liturgies, sacramental theology? By all means. But it is inimical to community building to stand for gender equality while at the same time giving official sanction and positions authority to those who oppose it. This action demonstrates that social conservatives, especially male social conservatives in holy orders, continue to enjoy privilege in the church.

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Chaz Brooks
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Chaz Brooks

You can't pretend you're open to compromise if you're only willing to compromise on matters of indifference to you. Well, I suppose you can, but it would all be a pretense.

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Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

The via media notion pertains to ecclesiology, or rather, competing ecclesiologies. Gender equality and full inclusion of GLBTQ folks are both (related) justice issues. The churches are fast becoming the last places where sexism of one sort or another is given space and legitimacy under the rubric of "theology". Its a kind of subterfuge, and it needs to be contested on that basis. I am not impacted by whether or not one believes in seven sacraments or only two. However, I am implicated by extension when the organization I belong to baptizes socially regressive and harmful attitudes towards others in order to appease conservatives. Justice is hardly a matter of "indifference".

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Chaz Brooks
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Chaz Brooks

That's exactly what I said. You only tolerate difference if it's with issues that don't matter to you. Which is not in any way a generous "big-tent" theology at all. If the Episcopal Church wants to truly be a via media, then its members have to be open to compromise no only in little matters, but in weighty matters as well.

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Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

I'm not arguing for compromise on justice issues. I'm advocating the reverse. I'm pointing out that to advance compromise based on the "big tent", or the via media, is to apply a model that works in one arena, to another where it is completely inappropriate, in my view.

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Chaz Brooks
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Chaz Brooks

You're only arguing that this "big tent" theology is ultimately untenable. I think it's a load of twaddle myself, so it's not my problem.

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Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Nor is your circuitous reasoning my problem. A via media that has both boundaries and integrity can still be a via media.

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Chaz Brooks
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Chaz Brooks

What your problem is, if you think there can be a via media on some matters and not on others, is explaining why your list of essentials, issues on which there can be no compromise, counts more than anyone else's. There's nothing "circuitous" about that question however difficult it might be for you to understand.

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Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

" you think there can be a via media on some matters and not on others.."

Yes I do. There is a difference between a "big tent" as you call it, and being open to the sky. Arguing that a tent is not big enough because it is not open to the sky is a form of circuitous reasoning. Via media, by the way, is preferable to "big tent" in terms of clarification of terms. "Big tent" is often used by politcal parties where it is eventually qualified by partisan delineation.

Surely one wouldn't accept that equivocating on race or ethnicity is acceptable? Discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation results in harm to individuals, and by extension, to the wider society. Dressing it up as theology and appealing to Anglican compromise compounds the harm. Via media has its origins in the Elizabethan Settlement, as a politcal model that assumes there are parameters within or between which church as society is held together. Its subsequent application from the Oxford movement forward has been controversial. I'm hardly the first person to contest its applicability to any and every new problem.

Via media is largely useless as a framework for dealing with fundamental social justice issues. Conservatives seemed to have staked out the position that gender inequality or homophobia in the church are merely a matter of theological opinion, that patriarchy is dictated from heaven and binding for all time. Via media can be used as a Trojan horse to advance gender bias over and against gender equality. That's my criticism the Church of England policy under discussion in the article here.

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