A DOCUMENT, Women in the Episcopate?, prepared by the House of Bishops Theological Group and the Faith and Order Advisory Group, chaired respectively by the Bishops of Rochester and Chichester, has been distributed to General Synod members this week — and a protest has ensued.
The report reproduces Cardinal Walter Kasper’s address objecting to the opening of the episcopate to women, which he gave, at the Archbishop of Canterbury’s invitation, to the Bishops at a meeting in June 2006. It also gives a “spectrum” of responses.
The Cardinal said that “realistically” the move ended the possibility of unity. It would “institutionalise schism” and call in question the C of E’s adherence to the historic episcopate. He said that the Church was not free to decide by a majority on a move that would need the overwhelming agreement of the ancient Churches of the East and the West.
In a letter reproduced in the appendix, Dr Williams told the Cardinal that his words had focused the Bishops’ attention on the need for more theological debate than they had had, “in order to meet your challenge of stating the arguments for ordaining women as bishops in terms clearly congruent with traditional Anglican theological method”.
The stated aim of the report is to ensure that the Cardinal’s address and the responses to it are given “proper weight” in debate.
Christina Rees, who chairs the campaigning group WATCH, said: “The majority view of the Church that is in favour of women bishops is simply passed over.” She was also concerned that there was no evidence to show that the document had been “signed off” by all the members of the committees concerned.
Women in the Episcopate? (GS Misc 885) is published by the General Synod (£10 from Church House Bookshop).