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Dr Wright and the women-bishops debate

02 June 2010


From Mrs Christina Rees

Sir, — In his presidential address to Durham diocesan synod (News, 28 May), Bishop Tom Wright stated that there needs to be more theological discussion about women as bishops, even though this issue has been discussed and debated for nearly a century.

More than 30 years ago, General Synod debated a motion calling for women’s ordination as deacons, priests, and bishops. It received a simple majority, but narrowly failed to achieve the required two-thirds majority in each House, and so fell. Since then, there have been numer­ous reports, debates, discus­sions, and commissions on the theology of women in the epis­copate, although I appreciate that Dr Wright may not have been party to them all.

The current proposals, while representing a compromise for those of us who would prefer to have the simplest possible legislation, nevertheless provide a way forward that retains the unity of our Church and of the episcopate. I do not recognise the practice of endlessly discussing something that has been repeatedly agreed in principle, for the sake of “squaring circles”. There are some people in the Church of England who will never accept women’s ordained ministry, just as there were some in the Early Church who never accepted that Gentiles had received the word of God and the Holy Spirit.

Likewise, there were some in the Church of England who never accepted that slavery should be abolished: after abolition, the then Bishop of Bristol insisted on keeping his slaves for a further 23 years. I entirely agree with Dr Wright that all ministry is given to serve the unity of the Church. What a pity some seem unable to receive it.

Pudding Lane,

From the Revd Stephen Griffiths

Sir, — The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) has shown what is possible when moderate and traditional Anglican values become marginalised within a provincial structure. If those in the Church of England who wish to maintain the two integrities find themselves similarly marginalised, there is no reason why they cannot thrive as Anglicans in a new way.

The General Synod has now recognised and affirmed the desire of those who have formed the ACNA to remain within the Anglican family. If this relationship is anything to go by, those who have to step outside of our provincial structure over the matter of women bishops should eventually find their desire to remain within the Anglican family recognised and affirmed by the General Synod.

Perhaps the General Synod can shortcut this potentially painful and circuitous process by giving the two integrities the secure place they deserve within the Church of England.

The Rectory, Low Moresby
Cumbria CA28 6RR

From Canon B. W. Sharpe SSC

Sir, — The Revd Jean Mayland (Letters, 21 May) has misquoted Galatians 3.28, as verse 27 clearly says that it is in baptism, not ordination, that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. If verse 28 was meant to be used for ordination, then every baptised member of the Church should be ordained priest to preserve equality. I think not. A text without a context is a pretext.

72 Faraday Avenue
Sidcup, Kent

From the Revd John E. Sclater

Sir, — I am not a “traditionalist” (we know what that shorthand means), but I do respect and feel for those who hold that integrity, and who were promised an honoured and respected place in our Church.

The letter from the Revd Nigel Lacey (21 May) contains a contradiction that I am sure he is not the only one to fail to see. He writes: “There is room for diversity of opinions, thank God, but discrimination can have no place within our modern world” — that is to say, except discrimination against “traditionalists”.

Discrimination here means not active hostility, but something subtler than that: allowing them to hold their position, but only on our terms. I recall a text about motes and beams — by its very nature, that most difficult of texts to apply to ourselves.

3 East Court
South Horrington
Wells BA5 3HL

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