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News > UK >

Traditionalists slam women-bishops plan

Madeleine Davies

by Madeleine Davies

Posted: 07 Jun 2013 @ 12:22

GRAHAM HOWARD

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Statement: Jonathan Baker, now Bishop of Fulham, speaks at the  Forward in Faith national assembly, in 2009 

Credit: GRAHAM HOWARD

Statement: Jonathan Baker, now Bishop of Fulham, speaks at the  Forward in Faith national assembly, in 2009 

THE House of Bishops' preference for "option one" for the legislation to enable women to be consecrated bishops ( News, 31 May) has been strongly criticised by the Catholic Group in the General Synod as a "step backwards". The motion involves "the repeal of the statutory rights to pass Resolutions A and B under the 1993 Measure".

Forward in Faith, another traditionalist group, warned that the proposed legislation "sweeps away existing legal security" and "damages trust".

In the first detailed traditionalist response, issued last Friday, Canon Simon Killwick, chairman of the Catholic Group, said that it was "saddened" by the Bishops' choice, accusing them of "closing down debate before it has started".

He wrote: "Option one will not help to achieve a consensus; it will not create legislation capable of achieving the required majorities. It would tear up the current settlement over women priests, and replace it with arrangements which no one would be obliged to follow."

The statement responds to the Bishops' appeal to trust. "We regulate other areas of church life in great detail by law - measures, canons and regulations - and we see no justification for abandoning that approach in relation to one of the most controversial areas of our church life."

The Catholic Group argues that keeping Resolutions A and B "would provide the essential underpinning" for any future arrangements, which "need to be secure, and not dependent on the discretionary decisions of individual bishops, clergy, PCCs, patrons, and parish representatives".

These criticisms match those of conservative Evangelicals represented by Reform, whose chairman, Prebendary Rod Thomas, described the future under the proposals as "really rather bleak" (News, 31 May).

On Tuesday, a statement was issued by the chairman of Forward in Faith, the Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Revd Jonathan Baker, and its vice-chairman, Dr Lindsay Newcombe. They welcomed the five-point vision in the report of the working group attached to the Bishops' proposals, but said that they were "puzzled by the conclusions that the House has apparently drawn". They were also "puzzled as to why the House of Bishops apparently believes that its new proposals, which would involve no legally binding provision at all, are more likely to gain the necessary majorities".

They write: "Our future can only be based on a mutually trusting relationship. The proposal of legislation which sweeps away existing legal security damages trust."

They express a hope that the General Synod "will choose a way forward which builds on the existing arrangements rather than one which destroys them. Such legislation would be far more likely to secure final approval in the shortest possible time."

On Tuesday, Affirming Catholicism issued a "strong welcome" to the Bishops' proposals. It said that details of the provisions for those who could not accept women bishops "must be clear before General Synod is asked to proceed", and that it would welcome "provision of a dispute resolution procedure overseen by a monitoring body".

On Sunday, the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Peter Broadbent, tweeted: "Opponents lost their last chance of legislation with Nov debacle." He also wrote: "There will still be provision (I've just rewritten the London Plan), and pockets of Other Culture, but not mainstream to C of E."

On Wednesday, Bishop Broadbent said that the London Plan had been reviewed by the bishops of the diocese, in the light of the appointment of the new Bishop of Fulham, and was being reviewed by the Deans of Women's Ministry. "I think we were operating with a certain lack of clarity wth the previous Bishop of Fulham."

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