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Williams on Women Bishops Measure: “Just Pass It!”

Williams on Women Bishops Measure: “Just Pass It!”

The Church Times is reporting that Rowan Williams is urging a final push to pass the measure to allow the ordination of women to the episcopate.

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has begun a campaign to persuade General Synod members to back the new women-bishops legislation when it returns to debate it next month.

Writing in the Church Times this week, he addresses waverers, those who find the legislation “not quite good enough, or not quite simple enough”. To vote against the legislation, which he admits is “not perfect”, would be to risk “committing us to a period of continued and perhaps intensified internal conflict, with no clearly guaranteed outcome . . . a period of publicly embarrassing and internally draining indecision”.

Dr Williams pleads with Synod members to be clear about what the legislation does and doesn’t say, ascribing the failure of the Bishops’ earlier amendment to a mistaken assumption about the rights that it gave parishes.

There was now an “equally mistaken assumption that the word ‘respect’ in the new amendment ( News, 21 September) is little more than window-dressing.

Also writing in the Time, Williams says

…a Church that ordains women as priests, but not as bishops, is stuck with a real anomaly, one that introduces an unclarity into what we are saying about baptism and about the absorption of the Church in the priestly self-giving of Jesus Christ.

Wanting to move beyond this anomaly is not a sign of giving in to secular egalitarianism – although we must be honest, and admit that, without secular feminism, we might never have seen the urgency of this, or the inconsistency of our previous position.

RECTIFYING the anomaly is, we believe, good news in a range of ways. It is good news for women, who are at last assured in more than words alone that their baptismal relationship with Jesus Christ is not different from or inferior to that of men, as regards their fitness for public ministry exercised in Christ’s name and power.

It is good news for men, who may now receive more freely the spiritual gifts God gives to women, because women are recognised among those who can, at every level, animate and inspire the Church in their presidency at worship. So it is good news for the whole Church, in the liberating of fresh gifts for all.

It is good news for the world we live in, which needs the unequivocal affirmation of a dignity given equally to all by God in creation and redemption – and can now, we hope, see more clearly that the Church is not speaking a language completely remote from its own most generous and just instincts.

Williams admits that the measure now before the Synod is not perfect but that perfection is both elusive and in the eye of the beholder.

For those who think the legislation has compromised too far, it may be important to note that conscientious opposition has not grown noticeably weaker; it cannot be taken for granted that any delay would guarantee a smoother passage.

And those who think that the provision for dissent is inadequate have to reckon with the extreme unlikelihood, given the way things have gone in the past few years, that any future legislation will be able to find a more acceptable framework. The chances are that there will in fact be greater pressure from some quarters for a “single-clause” Measure.

In other words, voting against the legislation risks committing us to a period of continued and perhaps intensified internal conflict, with no clearly guaranteed outcome. Of course, those who believe that the episcopal ministry of women is simply contrary to God’s will for the Church of England will vote against, and there should be no unfair pressure on clear consciences. They are voting for what they truly believe is God’s purpose for his Church.

But, for those who find it not quite good enough, or not quite simple enough, the question must be: “What are you voting for, if you vote against this Measure?” And what if you decide that the answer is, uncomfortably, a period of publicly embarrassing and internally draining indecision?

His column is also found here.


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Jack Zamboni

If Rowan himself had not been complicit in the shenanigans of the earlier House of Bishops measure to give aid and comfort to the the reactionaries in the C of E he might have some credibility. Alas, no. He seems not to have learned that trying to have everything both ways just leaves him as a failed leader. I am glad he will soon be returning to academia where he can offer the church his true gift – a stunningly brilliant theological and spiritual mind. Sad that his great mind did not serve the C of E and WWAC well as ABC.

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