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Eucharistic arrangements in Blackburn

05 August 2009


From Canon Gordon Oliver

Sir, — It is clear that badly conceived theology leads to badly conceived Christian mission and pastoral care. Blackburn Cathedral Dean and Chapter’s decision to respond to the difficulties of members of their community who cannot accept the ministry of Canon Sue Penfold, or presumably any other woman priest, by making available two sets of con­secrated wafers is a clear embodi­ment of this principle.

To say (News, 31 July) that “Canon Penfold knew about the arrangements and had accepted them” is not good enough. Christ is not divided, and the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood should not be divided either. By taking this appallingly short-sighted decision, Blackburn Cathedral Chapter may think they have solved their little local difficulty, but they have brought grief and insult to the ministry of ordained women and the vast majority of Church of England people who accept their ministries.

There is another way that could easily have been taken. This involves invoking the well known principle of ecumenical relationships whereby it is one’s duty to take part in fellowship and worship with fellow Christians with whom we are not “in communion” to the fullest extent that our conscience will allow, and otherwise to remain present, attent­ive, and prayerful. By this means we can face up to the realities of our lack of unity, prayerfully share in the grief and pain of Christ over our disunity, and pray with and for those with whom we are in disagree­ment.

The Blackburn Chapter’s policy, by embodying disunity in the very celebration and administration of the sacrament in this unnecessary way, is institutionalising divisiveness at the very point where our unity in Christ is to be found. Their state­ment that “It is established practice, and it is not going to change” has absolutely nothing of the gospel of Christ about it. This practice must be subjected to further reflection, and it must be changed without further delay.

18 Kings Avenue
Rochester ME1 3DS

From the Revd Anne Morris

Sir, — Mrs Robins was not the only person shocked by the arrangements at Blackburn Cathedral when the eucharist is celebrated by Canon Susan Penfold. As a regular weekday worshipper, and member of the Council of the Friends of Blackburn Cathedral, I was unaware of the arrangements until a few weeks ago. I have now ceased to attend services, and resigned from the Friends.

That this should happen in the “mother” church of the diocese, in the name of Jesus Christ, is heartbreaking. Why cannot those six or seven who cannot accept the ministry of a woman simply abstain on the occasions when Canon Penfold presides, or go to another service?

Why do the other worshippers at the Cathedral tolerate the situation? Why do the male clergy allow the bread and wine consecrated at their hands to be abused in this way? And what is the point in the Cathedral exercising a ministry of tolerance and understanding between Muslims and Christians when it allows this injustice against its own clergy?

Out of conscience, I will not attend any worship or event at the Cathedral until this practice stops. This means, I regret, that I will miss the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the diocese later in the year, and next year’s chrism mass.

St Oswald’s Vicarage, Bank Lane
Knuzden, Blackburn BB1 2AP

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