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Legislation for women bishops and provision for traditionalists

by
02 November 2006

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From Canon Nerissa Jones and others
Sir, - The new General Synod opens with a seminar presenting the theological grounds for admitting women to the episcopate. At the same time, the Bishop of Guildford is considering the practical ways in which the Church of England might proceed and make pastoral provision for those who will not accept the ministry of a woman bishop.

We affirm the authority of the Church of England to admit women fully to the historic threefold ministry. Nevertheless, while the gender of those who are ordained is a matter indifferent, the ministry itself is not. We are gravely concerned that all but one of the options that will come before the Synod would change the nature of the episcopate.

Any option that seeks to make pastoral provision by using legislation to limit the ministry of women bishops would create, in effect, a second class of bishops, which would be discriminatory and un-Catholic: it would split the episcopate in two, and profoundly undermine the ministry that we share with the universal Church and that we claim to maintain.

We recognise that those who oppose the ordination of women lack confidence and trust in the Church. The way forward must be to build trust, to create robust systems that ensure that behaviour matches rhetoric, and to maintain the maximum level of communion possible.

Affirming Catholicism supports the first option of the Rochester report: a simple, single-clause Measure allowing women to proceed to episcopal ministry, coupled with a code of practice, but with the significant addition of a robust mechanism to enforce its provisions.

We recommend that the Church sets up a provincial panel of reference answerable to the Archbishops, to monitor compliance with the code of practice, investigate particular breaches, and report publicly, so that the whole Church can be informed about the care being shown to those of a minority view.

We believe that it is vitally important that Christian charity is shown towards those who in good conscience cannot accept the ministry of a woman bishop, but such pastoral provision as is made must not undermine the fullness of the ministry exercised by women bishops, nor subvert the catholicity and apostolicity of the whole Church.

We have written to the Bishop of Guildford along these lines, and encourage others to do so as a matter of urgency.
Nerissa Jones, Barry Norris, Richard Jenkins, Robin Welton, Lisa Martell
Standing Committee
Affirming Catholicism
St Matthew's House
20 Great Peter Street
London SW1P 2BU

From the Revd John Wells
Sir, - I was sorry to read a letter ( 28 October) attacking the Bishop of Manchester for appointing a traditionalist priest to an archdeaconry; and this week ( 4 November) I was hurt by an allegation in another letter that the same Bishop, while at Wakefield, had been ostracised by traditionalist priests in that diocese.

In fact, we were grateful to Bishop Nigel for his pastoral care and personal concern, and for the way in which, by respecting our position while remaining true to his own, he made it possible for us to remain fully integrated in the life of the diocese. It is good to know that he is still pursuing the same policy.
JOHN M. WELLS
2 Clarkesmead, Tiptree
Colchester CO5 0BX

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