THE Church of England “needs strong Catholic hearts and voices” to defeat the proposed legislation on women bishops, a group of Anglo-Catholic bishops said in an open letter to their constituency last week.
The letter is signed by 15 bishops from Forward in Faith, including the Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Revd John Broadhurst, the Bishop of Chichester, Dr John Hind, and the three Provincial Episcopal Visitors. It urges traditionalists to “engage in the debate and discussion” when the legislation from General Synod goes to the dioceses, which is the next stage in the process.
The Bishops urge their supporters to be “active in the election process for the next quinquennium of the General Synod when the two-thirds majority in each House will be required if the legislation is to pass”.
The Bishops say these are “grave times” for the Church of England. Bringing in women bishops will mean a “disastrous cost to Catholic unity”, and will “not provide room for our tradition to grow and flourish”.
They are sceptical of a code of practice “yet to be written”, and question whether “such an inadequate provision will be honoured in the long term”. The Bishops write that neither the revision committee’s report nor the legislation showed proper understanding of their reservations.
They acknowledge that they must now accept that a majority are in favour of women bishops, but say that “a significant percentage of those in authority will not encourage or embrace with enthusiasm the traditional integrity or vocations within it”, nor “desire to create a structure” that will accommodate them.
The letter, which has been sent to 1000 clergy members of Forward in Faith, says that the narrow defeat of the Archbishops’ amendment at General Synod suggests that there is “a measure of disquiet in the majority about proceeding without a provision acceptable to traditionalists”. It cautioned that while the press was speaking as if the legislation was all passed, “final synodical approval is still some way off”.
It acknowledges that some Anglo-Catholics are resolved already to join the Ordinariate offered by Pope Benedict XVI, and some may do so in the future.
The Bishops say that they are united in their belief “that the Church of England is mistaken in its actions”, but acknowledge that they are “not united as to how we should respond to these developments”.
Forward in Faith clergy meetings are due to take place in both provinces next month to discuss the future.