From the Bishop of Worcester
Sir, - Though I respect him greatly, I
think that my colleague the Bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Forster, is
profoundly misguided in urging the Synod to vote against the
Measure to allow women to be consecrated bishop (
Comment, 9 November).
Contrary to what he says, the Measure
is the result of a long and careful debate that takes very
seriously those who in conscience cannot accept this move as
warranted by scripture or tradition. It ensures that they and their
views will continue to be respected in our Church.
Second, passing the Measure would not
adversely affect the spiritual and theological coherence of the
Church as he suggests. If it were to go down, the consequences for
both - not to mention our mission to the nation - would be grave.
It is clear that the overwhelming majority of people in the Church
of England want it to be passed, and for the Synod to vote against
would be theologically and missionally perverse.
Third, it would be good rather than
bad ecumenically. Is he not aware that very many Roman Catholics
indeed would welcome the passing of the Measure? They look to us to
lead the way, as we have done in so many ways since the
Reformation. In any event, women are already ordained bishops in
several Anglican provinces.
I hope and pray with all my heart that
the Measure will be passed.
The Bishop's Office, The Old Palace, Worcester WR1 2JE
From the Revd Dr John
Sir, - It was very dispiriting to read
the Bishop of Chester's article explaining why he can't support the
Measure to admit women to the episcopate (
Comment, 9 November). The one thing that seems beyond doubt is
that there is overwhelming support for women bishops within the
Church and the wider society. I am not insensitive to the need to
make considerate provision for those who cannot accept this change,
but Dr Forster's three additional reasons for saying no really do
seem a counsel of despair.
The first reason appears to amount to
alleging that the conduct of the debate has been unacceptable
because the arguments in favour have sometimes been presented very
forcefully. I am not sure what the alternative to this would have
been, and, in any case, opponents of women bishops are not exactly
diffident in advancing their own views.
The second turns on the anxiety that
the consecration of women might change the theology of episcopacy.
But, given that it is the bishops who define the official theology
of the Church, and, therefore, the theology of episcopacy has
hitherto been defined exclusively by men, it is only to be hoped
that the theology will indeed change once women have a share in
The third argument suggests, oddly,
that only when we have given up on any realistic chance of the
Roman Catholic and Orthodox coming on side should we in the Church
of England go it alone - an interesting variation on the common
Anglo-Catholic argument that we must wait until Rome says "yes" to
women's ordination, but, in the end, little more than an
indefinitely extended delaying tactic.
Dr Forster ends with the baffling
statement that "the credibility of the Church must be in the eyes
of God, not of the world." If this means what it appears to say,
that some proposals for the Church lack credibility in the eyes of
God, and that we can know this by some means other than the
evidence gleaned from the world around us, this would appear
depressingly to limit the prospect of ever getting anything changed
in the Church.
Sometimes we just have to acknowledge
that the arguments have been made as convincingly as we can
reasonably expect in this life, and step out in faith.
13 Marston Crescent, Acomb, York YO26 5DQ
From the Revd Jean M.
Sir, - I really wonder where the Revd
Anne Stevens and others who wrote supporting further delay on the
Measure to ordain women bishops have been for the past four or five
years. She writes advocating no legal solutions to the problem of
those opposed and criticises the "uneasy compromise of this
Many of us have been living with
uneasy compromise for years. We set out on this last venture
advocating a single-clause Measure, leaving arrangements for those
opposed to be carried out on trust, as in the United States. We had
to face the fact that those opposed do not trust us at all, sad
though that is.
This latest offering of "uneasy
compromise" was worked out by years of careful study and discussion
by the members of the revision committee, and was approved by 42
out of 44 dioceses.
It was rocked by the interference of
the Bishops and then saved again by a new compromise proposed by a
working woman priest. It is by no means perfect, but it is the best
we are going to get, and, what is more, it is something that we can
make work. Those opposed are vociferous and wealthy, but are
actually very small in number. In the deanery in which I live,
which covers hundreds of square miles and probably contains more
sheep than people, there is only one parish opposed. We can cope
with that. Similar statistics are to be found in many places.
I started this journey of discussion
in the Church Assembly of 1966, and made my first speech on the
issue in 1967, supporting a motion moved by Professor Lampe. I do
not desire any more delay. I trust that the General Synod will say
a resounding "yes", and we will be able to get on with our work of
drawing the people of our nation into the Kingdom of God. If we
fail again, many people will reject us for ever.
JEAN M. MAYLAND
5 Hackwood Glade, Hexham, Northumberland NE46 1AL
From the Revd Geoffrey
Sir, - The Revd David Runcorn (
Letters, 9 November) expresses his concern about those
traditionalists who are unable to trust that the voluntary codes as
proposed will be honoured.
Traditionalists are indeed concerned
that anything that is not enshrined in church law may not always
and everywhere be honoured. Why? Because we have only to look at
what has happened over the past 20 years in relation to women
priests, even with the Act of Synod in place.
Some diocesan bishops have been
extremely honourable and have made appointments to incumbencies and
more senior positions from among traditionalists. Others have just
made token appointments, while some have not appointed a single
traditionalist to any more senior post, or appointed a single
traditionalist priest to a non-petitioning parish.
Even where Resolutions A and B have
been in place, some bishops have appointed male clergy of liberal
views to that parish and sometimes requested that they try to get
the PCC to reverse the resolution (so that a woman can be appointed
the next time there is a vacancy).
All this is sad, but it is true. The
present proposals may enable us oldies to stay in the C of E until
we die, but it will not create stable ground for younger clergy and
their people to get engaged in mission, or stable ground for those
of traditionalist views considering holy orders or a lifelong
vocation to the religious life. The situation is even worse if one
looks to the Episcopal Church in the United States.
This is just one of the reasons why
what is proposed is not fit for the purpose.
Little Cross, Goodleigh, Barnstaple EX32 7NR
From Mr Richard Brown
Sir, - Sir Tony Baldry (
Letters, 9 November) has once again (as he did in the Synod in
July) tried to use scaremongering tactics in an attempt to persuade
Synod members that if the legislation were to fall at the last
hurdle, then the credibility of the
C of E would be damaged in respect of
Westminster and Whitehall.
Legislation that is certainly not fit
for purpose and provides only "hospice room" for a section of the
Church should not receive final approval if we truly want to be
seen as, and in fact be, an inclusive Church.
I find it astonishing that the Second
Church Estates Commissioner can state that if the legislation were
to fail at this time he would find it impossible to explain this to
Parliamentary colleagues. How about saying: Not fit for purpose, or
that it is not quite ready yet? Both are plausible responses.
How is Sir Tony going to explain to
his Parliamentary colleagues that the Church does not agree with
same-sex marriage? And yet do we hear any comment regarding that
process? No, we don't. Could it be that he is in fact trying to
bully and intimidate members of the Synod by saying that the Church
will lose its credibility with Parliament?
His supposed embarrassment at having
to explain the legislation's failing to Parliament is a minor issue
compared with the peaceful outcome that would result from simply
respecting the views of everyone and by making adequate provision.
Inclusivity and reconciliation is the best way forward, surely?
I, for one, will not be intimidated,
and intend to vote against the unfair, unjust, exclusive, and
flawed legislation at the November session. What those who oppose
this innovation need is adequate provision that respects and
honours their conviction, and provides something other than
"hospice room". When we can stop being exclusive and become more
inclusive to all within the
C of E, then, and only then,
can and should this matter proceed.
York General Synod member, Glebe House, Ingleby Arncliffe
Northallerton DL6 3JX
From the Revd Jonathan
Sir, - Sir Tony Baldry writes that,
should the women-bishops Measure be lost, "it would lead to the
marginalisation of the Church of England in Whitehall and
Westminster." So our Second Commissioner ensures that the C of E is
heard by Government and Parliament by making them heard in the
Who works for whom?
11 Coverdale Avenue, Bexhill, East Sussex TN39 4TY
From Dr Anna Gilchrist
Sir, - I have followed the progress of
the women-bishops Measure through the General Synod very closely,
because it has the potential to affect very greatly both the Church
of England, which I love, and my own parish church, not to mention
the future of many people like me who belong to the conservative
traditions of the Church.
The great majority, me included,
acknowledge that after 20 years since the law was changed to allow
women to be ordained, it is time to consider how they might also be
included in the episcopate. The way in which this is done, however,
must be appropriate and fair to all members of the Church of
England, and not move to marginalise and discriminate against those
of a traditional view.
Unfortunately, no matter how I try to
construe the draft Measure in its final form, on which we will be
asked to decide next month, it is evident that it leaves no place
in the Church of England for those whose theological beliefs and
opinions remain as they always have done, which were the official
teaching of the Church until 1992.
This is best-illustrated by the
Measure's strongest supporters' opposing the inclusion of any
clause in the Measure which makes reference to the theological
beliefs of those who do not share their position. Although there is
to be a Code of Practice, the Measure is designed to privilege
supporters of women bishops above all other strands of Christian
tradition, so that there will be a second-class category of members
who can hope only for an occasional visit from a bishop who
respects their views.
Even this crumb of comfort is not
assured, since it does not appear in the Measure, but only in a
Code of Practice that can be changed at any time in the future by a
simple majority of the General Synod. The Measure will abolish all
of the existing arrangements, which have kept the Church of England
together since 1992. It is not possible to have any confidence that
there will even be bishops in the future who share or even respect
what we believe.
I can conclude only that this is a
badly designed piece of legislation. The General Synod has been
here before, with the Churchwardens Measure in 1999/2000. Although
it was passed with an overwhelming majority, Parliament saw that it
was grossly unfair to churchwardens, and it was sent back to the
General Synod so that significant changes could be made.
My plea is that all members of the
General Synod should resist the pressure that is being put on them
to legislate, however unsatisfactory the terms of the Measure. It
will do untold damage to the Church if it receives final approval.
Once it is approved, it cannot practically be reversed.
It does not have to be this way, as we
have the power to reject this draft Measure, which seems to me to
be wholly unfit for its purpose, and to start work on a new Measure
that takes into account the needs of all sections of the Church of
England, who wish very much to remain fully a part of its future
I appreciate that this particular
piece of work has been a long time in preparation, but, despite
many suggestions for improvement along the way, the terms it lays
down have been progressively tightened, until there is no room left
for people like me in the vision that it will enact, should it
Contrary to public perception and
portrayal in the media, the traditionalist viewpoint is based on
theological perspectives and beliefs, not about an ethical stance.
As such, traditionalists can be both young and female, as I am.
17 Gorse Way, Glossop, Derbyshire SK13 8SX
From S. P. McKie
Sir, - Neil Inkley (
Letters, 9 November) wrote: "Among the many traditionalists
known to me, there are none who will not now accept that there will
be women bishops."
Mr Inkley's acquaintance must be
rather unusual; for the whole basis of the orthodox position is
that it is not possible for women to be consecrated as bishops.
Indeed, if women's consecration were possible, it is difficult to
think of any conclusive argument why they should not be permitted
to be consecrated.
We need to be precise about this. If
orthodox Anglicans are correct, it is not that we shall have women
bishops if the proposals are passed. It is that we shall have
persons referred to as bishops in law who are not bishops in
reality. For the first time since the Dark Ages, large parts of
England will be without the ministrations of a bishop at all,
except by way of an authority delegated by an individual, described
by the law as a bishop, who is not one in reality.
In his article in the same issue, Dr
Forster says that the implementation of the proposals will destroy
the sacramental unity of the episcopate. It will not do so, because
women who have gone through the form of legal "consecration", not
being bishops in reality, will not be part of the episcopate.
There will, however, be chaos and
confusion in the Church in England, as its legal forms divide
increasingly from spiritual reality. This will have profound
practical implications. The ordinary worshipper, attending a
service described as holy communion, will not be able, without
obtaining a sort of pedigree of the ordination of the presiding
clergyman, to tell whether he is participating in a genuine
sacrament or a mummers' play.
S. P. McKIE
Rudge Hill House, Rudge, Somersetshire BA11 2QG
From Mrs Rebecca Hunt
Sir, - As the Church of England
representatives prepare to gather next week for the vote on women
bishops, can it be right that the views of some 25 per cent of
Anglicans in this country, who because of their understanding of
scripture and tradition cannot in all conscience accept the
authority of a woman bishop, be given such weak legal
People from all traditions within the
Church of England should be concerned at the way it proposes to
treat this significant minority, and the breach of past promises
and assurances that this will represent.
The Rectory, Free Street, Bishop's Waltham SO32 1EE
From Mr Adrian F. Sunman
Sir, - The women-bishops Measure as it
currently stands isn't perfect, but it is probably as good as it is
likely to get. You cannot please all of the people all of the time,
and no form of wording is ever going to be to everyone's
We need to understand as a Church that
no form of legislation is actually going to work without the
goodwill and mutual trust required to make that happen. If we can't
manage that now, we need to get a grip and learn the art of
trusting one another sooner rather than later.
I personally hope the Measure is
passed and we can get on with other business. In common with other
Churches, the Church of England probably has 20 years left (30 if
we're lucky) as a viable, organised Christian denomination. Do we
want to spend those years arguing about women bishops? I hope
ADRIAN F. SUNMAN
1 Lunn Lane, Collingham, Newark, Notts NG23 7LP
From Mr Paul Edelin
Sir, - If a Church should exist for
the benefit of its non-members, formal rejection of gender
discrimination becomes a major objective when magnified worldwide.
A clearly articulated ethical advance through a single-clause
Measure seems more desirable than the simulated cohesion of a
128 Palewell Park, London SW14 8JH
From the Revd Larry
Sir, - In recent articles and letters
regarding women and the episcopate, the term "traditionalist" is
regularly used to describe those opposed to the Measure. This may
be convenient journalistic usage, but I fear it diminishes the
As a parish priest, I endeavour to
live faithfully by the Ordinal promises made when I was deaconed
and priested, respect the authority of the Bishop, try to keep up
with synodical debates locally and nationally (and adhere to their
decisions when passed by the requisite majority), be an accessible
presence in the local community, and try to keep abreast of current
ethical and political debates.
All these activities are underpinned
by a prayer and spiritual life rooted in Anglican devotions. Like
countless others - past, present, and still to come - I believe
myself to be a "traditional" parish priest, and I am in favour of
100 Bridge Street West, Newtown, Birmingham B19 2YX
From Mr John D. R. Lloyd
Sir, - In all the argument about how
to accommodate those who cannot accept women as bishops -or even as
priests - the more fundamental question whether there is any avid
objection to their ordination or consecration seems to have been
Traditionalist arguments seem to rely
on an interpretation of Genesis or how Rome will react. Even on a
literal reading of Genesis 2, man is not superior or prior to
woman. The "man" after the creation of woman (from his side, note,
not from his head or his feet) was not the same creature as before.
Just as in the first chapter God is depicted as first creating and
then dividing day from night, land from sea, so he creates
humankind and then divides male from female.
Some 50 years ago at the time of
Vatican II, Fr Jim Geary, an elderly Roman Catholic priest in
Southport, was asked if there would ever be women priests. His
reply, delivered in a lilting Irish brogue, was: "Well, now, at the
next Vatican Council the bishops will be taking their wives, and at
the one after that they'll be taking their husbands."
The next Council may be a long way
off, but, in the mean time, surely the biggest obstacle to unity
with the Roman Catholic Church, pace Dr Forster, is not
women as bishops or priests, but the insistence of the Pope and
Curia that the Church of England has no priests at all, Anglican
orders being "absolutely null and utterly void".
The point has already been made
(Letters, 9 November) that the Church's first care is to those not
yet its members. How would the Church have fared if the
"traditionalists" had won the day at the Council of Jerusalem
referred to in Acts 15?
JOHN D. R. LLOYD
4 Grange Avenue, Southport PR9 9AH