Conscience provision over women bishops

by
04 June 2008

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From Rachel Moriarty
Sir, — I write from the same diocese as Professor Walter James (Letters, 9 May) and fully support his views on “special arrangements” about women bishops. In situations like ours, where no bishop can accept women as priests or bishops, surely fairness requires that those of us who would welcome them receive the same consideration as those with conscientious objections in other dioceses.

The Manchester report makes no reference to this possibility, and appears to rely on the assumption already implicit in arrangements for women priests, that “special arrangements” would be needed only for those with conscientious objections (para. 26); so, under different options, diocesan bishops might make special arrangements for those objectors (paras. 113-4); historic dioceses might not need to make any distinction of priests’ gender (para. 96); and lay people would follow their priests.

In a diocese where the balance is different, this assumption already raises serious questions for clergy and laypeople who support women as priests: we surely cannot now consider women bishops without any mention of equivalent provision for those in our position.

It is argued that such reverse arrangements over-complicate an already difficult issue, and are best left out of discussion; but to fail to discuss them undermines the principle of equity and mutual respect on which any such arrangements are made. If the debate is to honour all views within the Church, this question must surely be properly aired and openly resolved.
RACHEL MORIARTY
22 Westgate, Chichester PO19 3EU

From Celia Bush
Sir, — Canon Frances Ward (Letters, 23 May) is right in one respect but not in another. Swiss Gruyère cheese indeed has no holes, but French Gruyère must have holes, by law.

The whole analogy reminds me, sadly, of the story of the three mice who found a delicious, large piece of Gruyère cheese (obviously the French sort), but had no means of cutting it and sharing it equitably. They drew lots, and one mouse was deputed to go off and find a suitable means of cutting up the cheese equally.

He returned some hours later with a perfect mouse-sized knife, only to find the cheese was no more: in his absence, the other two had devised a solution, divided up the cheese with their teeth, and, as they informed him, “Your share was the holes.”
CELIA BUSH
169 Humber Doucy Lane
Ipswich IP4 3PA

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