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.
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