Manchester Group’s conclusions on women bishops: further responses

21 May 2008


From Mr Robert Ian Williams
Sir, — Mr Oswald Clark (Letters, 16 May) asserts that he “adheres to the traditional faith and order of the Church of England down the ages”. Further reference, however, to the Third Province Movement, of which he is a patron, reveals that it has no problem with women deacons. Such is also the attitude of Forward in Faith, Reform, and the flying bishops.

Yet before 1987 there were no women deacons in the Church of England. In 1920, a petition of more than 50,000 women, organised by the English Church Union, threatened schism if the Lambeth Conference of that year allowed deaconesses to be considered as deacons and within holy orders.

May I respectfully ask whether Mr Clark is starting his own Fourth Province Movement, which refuses to admit women to holy orders in any degree; or is he confusing the office of deaconess with that of the order of deacon?
Y garreg lwyd
Whitchurch Road
Bangor is y Coed
LL13 0BB

From Mr N. J. Inkley
Sir, — Further to the letters regarding the Manchester report, surely it must be realised that there are many people in the Church of England who wish to continue practising their religion within it, and in the way that they were able to when they joined. The Church has sustained them; they have been steadfast; there should be some mutual loyalty still remaining.

Some seem positively to clamour for the change to women bishops to be compulsorily all-embracing. There is an irony in this. Most people who are not comfortable with the change are prepared for its supporters to “get on with it their way”, provided a proper provision is made for themselves. It is only the ardent innovators who are in the business of no accommodations.

Professor James adds further complication in leading towards a provision beyond “may have women” to “must have women”. Whatever the realignment, some people will, no doubt, have to change the church that they regularly attend. Usually, travelling to a “hole in the Gruyère” will be more difficult than moving from a hole to the cheese itself. Professor James would, at worst, have to move only within the cheese.


  Let us not be led to consideration of a second and different labyrinth of holes.
6 Knot Lane
Preston PR5 4BQ

From Canon Dr Frances Ward
Sir, — Bishop Nigel McCulloch quotes a contributor to the Manchester report (another bishop, he tells me) who likens the Church of England to a Gruyère cheese, with holes — holes that will emerge as pockets of those who cannot accept the ministry of women bishops.

The only flaw here is that Gruyère cheese doesn’t have holes. Is this prophetic foresight? Let’s hope so. It is certainly further evidence that the House of Bishops needs women — who know their cheeses and a great deal more besides.
3 Cathedral Close

From the Revd Kathy Kirby
Sir, — I warmly welcome the letter thanking the Bishop of Manchester and his colleagues for the prayerfulness and sensitivity of their recently published report.

It seems to me that John 13 and 14 offer helpful insight into how “the two integrities” might be accommodated in love: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places” (John 14.2), and “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13.35). Rooms with Resolutions A to C, rooms without Resolutions — but one house, enveloped in the Father’s love.

Could this be a model that will hold us all together in the love of Christ? And, in particular, could it lead us to acknowledge in humility and penitence that words such as “traitor” and “untrustworthy”, spoken of those who, in the power of the Spirit, find themselves moving from one room to another, do not reflect the love that Christ so clearly teaches is a prerequisite for Christian discipleship?
18 Pulford Road, Sale
Cheshire M33 3LP

From the Revd Andrew Sully
Sir, — Having just returned from my morning prayers on the second of three Ember Days after Pentecost, I was struck by the large number of advertisements in the Church Times promoting conferences or events hardly in keeping with the spirit of unity in diversity that is the hallmark of this Pentecost season.

From the Third Province Movement and “Global Anglicanism and English Orthodoxy” to Walsingham’s “Mary for Everyone” (unless, that is, you are an ordained woman wishing to become a Priest Associate, in which case “the guardians maintain the discipline of reserving sacramental ministry in the shrine to male priests ordained by a male bishop”), the spirit of disunity and discourtesy continues.

Last week, it was the “Conference for Men” (only) to explore vocation which provoked the same feelings of sadness and regret.

Are the words from Jesus’s High Priestly prayer, of which we were reminded only a few days ago on the Sunday after the Ascension, not still ringing in our ears — “that they may be one, as we are one”?
The Vicarage, Abbey Road
LL20 8SN

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