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Women-bishops legislation: it needs to be done; it needs to be improved

21 December 2010


From Ms Hilary Cotton

Sir, — WATCH, too, hopes that the legislation for women bishops will receive the “resounding vote in favour” (Letters, 10 December). I am encouraged in this hope by a similar synodical pattern in the debate on women bishops to the one that Canon Killwick noted in the debate on the Covenant.

In the July 2010 sessions, after the defeat of the Archbishops’ amendment, the Synod rallied in support of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s leadership when he urged that due process should continue and the legislation as drafted should now go to the dioceses for debate. The Synod then voted to approve the revised draft legislation, with its extensive package of provisions for those who will not receive the episcopal oversight of women, by 373 votes to 14.

People inside and outside the Church are pressing us to complete this process and enable women to be bishops. We have ordained women who will contribute enormously to the leadership of the Church from their gifts and experience. The draft legislation will require generosity and sacrifice from these women towards those who will not accept their ministry: let us not presume to ask more of them than the draft legislation does by any suggestion of eleventh-hour amendments.

Head of Campaigns, WATCH
9 Eastgate Gardens
Guildford GU1 4AZ

From the Revd Patrick Davies

Sir, — It was with sadness but not surprise that I heard that five bishops of the Church of England had felt they had no choice but to join the Roman Catholic Church. It is right to thank them for their dedicated service. But their departure should give us pause for thought; for, while these loyal Anglicans felt obliged to go, unless there is a real attempt to provide a structural solution for those who in conscience cannot accept the ordination of women, further agony will follow.

I use the word “agony” deliberately, because what is offered — “A Code of Practice” — is the one thing we traditionalists have always said just won’t do. Only a structural solution will solved this structural problem. A Code of Practice will be a mechanism to manage palliative care for traditionalists. Anglo-Catholics and conservative Evangelicals have no intention of dying off. A Code of Practice will not provide a just settlement, a fair settlement; nor will it allow traditionalists to foster vocations and grow.

Without a structure, it leaves Anglo-Catholics and conservative Evangelicals in a very difficult place. We will be forced either to move out of the Church of our birth, something we do not want to do unless we have to. Or we will be forced to work in a Church against our conscience; or we will have no option but to act disobediently and invite bishops from other provinces to care for our needs. All of these are unacceptable, and will be damaging to the Church.

Many of my female colleagues and friends tell me they don’t want me or people like me to leave the C of E. And I say, “I don’t want to go, and what are you doing to try and keep me on board?”

What is needed is what Anglo-Catholics have always asked for. If the Church of England gets this right, we could all be in a win-win situation: women can be bishops and archbishops, and traditionalists will feel able to remain in the Church of their birth, and both will flourish as loyal Anglicans. Naturally, sacrifices from both sides will have to be made.

Those who are in favour of women bishops will have to recognise our need for a structure that allows us to have bishops with authority whom we can recognise. Conversely, traditionalists will have to make sacrifices. We will have to recognise that once women are bishops in the Church of England, then, Anglo-Catholic priests and ordinands must accept that we will be automatically excluded from any possibility of becoming archbishops, diocesan bishops, deans, and canons of cathedrals. The highest office any traditionalist could aspire to is becoming one of the few traditionalist bishops, and that will be as rare as hen’s teeth.

Forward in Faith, Manchester, and the Manchester Women’s Chapter have regularly met together for the past few years. We meet, discuss, read, pray, and socialise. We hold an annual vigil where we pray for each other and ask for the Holy Spirit to guide the Church of England. We recognise each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. Our next vigil will be on 2 February at noon at Manchester Cathedral. I pray that, as 2011 draws near, all sides will look at each other as Christ looks at each one of us.

Let us see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ and attempt to resolve this matter so that all may be honoured and none lost.

St Crispin’s Rectory
2 Hart Road, Fallowfield
Manchester M14 7LE

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