Last week the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York issued a joint statement on Episcopal Consecrations in the Church of England. Dear Reader, your author has tried and failed to understand the meaning of the statement without resorting to interpretation from self-interested commentators with opposing positions on women in the priesthood.
Those commentators agree with the practical implications of the statement: The Archbishops have agreed that it shall be the norm that no appointee to the episcopate opposed to women in the priesthood will need to seek approval to ensure their consecrators hold the same position. No longer will these consecrations be considered case by case.
Forward in Faith, which opposes women in the priesthood, puts it this way:
For slightly over twenty-five years, in the period since the admission of women into the priesthood by the Church of England, provision has been made for traditional Catholic candidates for the priesthood to be ordained by bishops with whom they are in full sacramental communion.
It is fitting that this well-established practice is being adopted as the norm for the consecration of traditional Catholic bishops, now that women have been admitted into the episcopate by the Church of England.
WATCH, Women and the Church, puts it this way:
The new Bishop of Lewes will not be in full communion with his Archbishop because he has ordained women as priests and bishops. This looks like a theology of taint. Although we are repeatedly told that Forward in Faith does not adhere to a theology of taint, this is exactly what the rejection of consecration by the Archbishop or any other (male) bishop who has ordained women looks like. It is, we are told a theology of impaired communion and any Bishop or Archbishop can restore the communion with society priests and bishops by repenting of their support of women’s ministry.
However this arrangement is defined, it sustains an argument that simply to lay hands on a woman to ordain her puts you outside the sacramental assurance that Prebendary William chooses to experience.
Yet again women are meant to accept this public statement about the Church of England’s ambiguous attitude to their ministry.
The Archbishops’ statement follows.
A Statement on Episcopal Consecrations
A statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Together with the Archbishop of York, in consultation with the Bishop of London, and after conversation with the House of Bishops, I have put forward new arrangements for the consecration of bishops.
These new arrangements are made in the light of the pandemic and in awareness of the sad reality that not all in the Church of England agree on issues of ordination, and yet all are committed to upholding the Five Guiding Principles.
We have agreed that the Metropolitan will normally ask another bishop to be the chief consecrator. Three bishops are required to consecrate a person as bishop. From now on the Archbishops will ask three bishops to lay on hands with other bishops present and associating with the ordination but not in fact laying on their hands.
St Swithun’s Day (15th July 2020) will see two consecration services happening under the new arrangements in Lambeth Palace Chapel. They will be held under careful guidelines because of the Coronavirus pandemic, with strict limits on the numbers attending.
I will be at both consecrations. As Metropolitan, I will receive the oaths from all three people to be ordained bishop showing jurisdiction over them. Having received the oaths I will then lead all present in a prayer of penitence given our divisions and the sadness that we go on being divided as a church.
I will preach at both services and the Bishop of London (Sarah Mullally), as Dean of the Province of Canterbury, will welcome the new bishops at both services.
I will also give each bishop their symbols of office – a ring, cross and staff and pronounce the blessing at the end of both services.
We are not stepping back under these new arrangements, rather we are stepping forward to work within the Five Guiding Principles and we invite all to walk with us to embrace those principles and pray for an end to the divisions which remain in our church, for which we grieves and are repentant.
Hugh Nelson and Ruth Bushyager will be consecrated by the Bishop of London assisted by the Bishop of Guildford and the Bishop of Dover.
Will Hazlewood will be consecrated by the Bishop of Richborough assisted by the Bishop of Ebbsfleet and The Bishop of Fulham.
It is unfortunate that during the pandemic it is not possible to hold the services in a Cathedral as normal so many friends and family will not be able to be present. The services are both going to be live streamed.
I am delighted to be with all three bishops as they begin their ministry. Please pray for them and for the dioceses in which they will serve.