From Sally Muggeridge
Sir, - On your letters page last week,
there was little light cast on the subject of women bishops for
those who might well wish now to vote in favour, and much darkness
cast by those who felt obliged to continue to oppose on the grounds
of theological conviction.
As a founder Trustee of the Tutu
Foundation UK (TFUK), I accompanied Archbishop Desmond Tutu to
Wales last week for a full programme celebrating the unique links
our Welsh counterparts have with Africa through charities such as
Positive Women, Life for African Mothers, and New Directions for
Congo. These organisations work tirelessly together to release
women from persecution and exclusion, to harness their unique and
valuable talents and empower them in improving their lives and the
lives of others, building a new generation of female leaders.
As a young curate at my church in
London in the 1960s, freed from the constraints of apartheid,
Desmond and his wife, Leah, exemplified all that both men and women
equally together can achieve in God's name. The Archbishop uses a
single word, "ubuntu" - meaning we are only human together
- and there is no doubt that all of us at Synod next month could do
no better than take this as our mantra.
When we ordained women as priests, why
did we not think that one day they would be bishops?
Member of General Synod, The Old Farm House, Pike Road
Kent CT15 4DJ
From Susie Stead
Sir, - I was baptised in the Anglican
Church in 1962. I am 50 years old, married to a vicar, with a
grandfather for a vicar, one great-grandfather as a bishop (Bishop
Lander), and another great-grandfather and great-grandmother as CMS
missionary martyrs (Robert and Louisa Stewart). I have been an
active, enthusiastic member of the C of E for most of my life.
I grew up in a Church that did not
accept women as priests, and a family and society in which men had
the power. It was what I was brought up with. Mostly, I remained
within the status quo - after all, I didn't want to be a priest. .
. But, over the years, society has moved on, theology has moved on,
and I have moved on - in life and in theology. I have woken up. And
I cannot now go back to sleep.
The Church has also moved on. We have
had women priests for 20 years. At present, half of ordinands are
women. It seems so obvious now that we should have women bishops
that it is hard to bear the possibility that this may not
Most of us want a broad Church. We
want one that includes a wide variety of viewpoints. If the current
legislation on women bishops succeeds, there will be legal
provision for those against women's ordination (despite their
complaints, it is there); but, if the legislation fails, there will
be no provision for the many Christians like me who find it
increasingly painful to remain part of, let alone promote, a sexist
Church. We cannot ask for alternative female episcopal oversight
(and if, for example, I were in the diocese of Chichester, I would
My 15-year-old daughter has already
left. I do not want to leave. In Christ, there is no male or
Holy Trinity Vicarage, 46 Quarry Road, Headington, Oxford OX3
From Professor Anthony J.
Sir, - It appears from your letters
page last week that opponents of the legislation for women bishops
seek an honoured "place" in the Church, and require that to be
geographic as well as in understanding.
In so doing, they precisely dishonour
women priests and bishops by refusing them the right to minister to
the great majority of lay people in those "geographic places".
Opponents make a plea for fair
treatment, but seek to require the Church to be unfair to women
priests and bishops, and to the majority of lay people, who would
happily accept the ministry of women in holy orders. Real fairness
would see all men and women priests and bishops exercising their
ministry in every parish in the Church, with graceful
acknowledgement, with parallel ministries working together for
mutual flourishing, instead of creating exclusion zones.
Opponents argue that the proposed
Measure may be argued in the courts, but, as it will be a law of
England made by Parliament, that must be so, whatever its form.
Opponents (Mr Fletcher) argue that the
present (and by implication any future) diocesan bishops cannot be
trusted. Such a position is deeply offensive.
Of course, the Measure is a
compromise; Clause 2 without the House of Bishops' amendments was
carried by 393 to 14; it was accepted by the majority of GS
opponents of women priests and bishops. Later, they had many
At this stage (especially given the
difficulties of the appointment process for Canterbury), it would
be somewhat problematic for the Church to vote down the legislation
for women bishops and set us on another five years of
demoralisation, not to mention public ridicule. Is it possible to
invite those against to consider encouraging the Measure through,
thus contributing to a process of healing and reconciliation? Such
processes already operate in diocesan staffs, cathedrals, and
parishes outside the present exclusion zones.
With faith and hope and some
flexibility, we could find honoured places for all ordained clergy
in hearts and minds, prayer and worship, pastorally and in
ANTHONY J. BERRY
Chester General Synod member
24 Leafield Road, Disley, Stockport SK12 2JF
From Mr Tim Hind
Sir, - I want to add my personal
support to the Enough Waiting campaign. The Church of England has
been struggling with the issue of women's ministry for more than
150 years, since the creation of the order of deaconesses. It took
until the 1970s to get to the point where the General Synod agreed
that there was no theological objection to the ordination of
Over the past year, the legislation
for women bishops has had intense debate and scrutiny, and the
dioceses, when asked, voted massively in favour (42 for; two
against), and even the underlying statistics showed that more than
76 per cent of those voting were in favour of the legislation
presented in February.
Since then, the House of Bishops has
been given two opportunities to tweak the legislation. There have
been many statements since the latest meeting of the House of
Bishops, and it worries me that many have not recognised the danger
to the Church of England should this legislation be voted down in
We must not, in passing this
legislation, deny the scriptural roots that are the cornerstone of
our faith and of our Church. The arguments that have been used to
oppose women bishops have not convinced the voters in the dioceses,
however, and are way out of touch with the people we are here to
serve, both inside and outside the Church.
We also need to understand the culture
in which we operate. It will take only a small change to the
equality legislation for our Church to have to reconsider its
My personal message to the House of
Laity who will be voting in November is that they need to be aware
that the Church that they represent is expecting to have women
bishops very soon. Most are not persuaded by the subtle nuances
that some hold dear. They will not understand why their
representatives are potentially frustrating their will expressed
through the Article 8 reference.
If a member of the Synod is minded not
to accept the legislation because of his or her convictions, which
I recognise are held with integrity, now is the time for that
member to show that extra level of generosity to allow the Church
to move forward. Abstaining is an honourable choice.
Vice-Chair of the House of Laity
Plowmans Corner, The Square, Westbury-sub-Mendip BA5 1HJ
From the Revd Ian Robins
Sir, - The Pope on his recent visit to
Beirut stated that "fundamentalism is always a falsification of
religion." Reading the letters about the draft women-bishops
Measure last week, I see that this is clearly what we face.
Fundamentalism is the understandable
clinging to specific scriptural passages or ecclesiastical
doctrines that may well have been authoritative in the culture and
time in which they emerged, but may not have the same authority
(still less divine authority) in very different cultures and
As promised (John 16.13), the Holy
Spirit continues to lead us into all the truth - and there is no
doubt that there will be much more truth to come as the possibility
of life elsewhere in the universe looms. But, for the moment, in
our tiny English denomination, the Spirit seems to be saying
something about the essential equality of gifts and vocations as
gloriously manifest in all genders for the priestly and episcopal
ministry of our Church.
33 Manorfields, Whalley, Nr Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9UD
From the Ven. Len Moss
Sir, - May we dare to hope that, at
next month's General Synod meeting, speakers on behalf of Forward
in Faith (FiF) will abstain from the cheap rhetoric that disgraced
their Assembly (
News, 19 October) - and equally that supporters of the draft
Measure will maintain a right respect towards those who disagree
with them? (However tempting it is to dismiss them as
"unreconstructed primeval chauvinists", it would be unlikely to
promote the truth and love of God in the Church or beyond it.)
We all need to remember that the two
mutually contradictory views of women's ordination which exist in
our Church are both permissible under the existing legislation,
pending an eventual consensus - however passionately we feel that
only our view is theologically well grounded. The Act of Synod was
introduced and won support largely because it was seen as a way of
holding us all together in fellowship as we sought a common mind.
Sadly, for many (not least in FiF), it became a device for ensuring
our continuing separation. It became easier for opponents of
women's ordination to avoid contact with women priests and their
supporters, and often to distance themselves from diocesan and
deanery activities (and even to set up "independent"
Crude discourtesy towards women
priests, and even the denial of their existence, may not have been
bad fruits of the Act, but it did little to discourage them. It is
hardly surprising that a movement to rescind the Act grew, nor that
there should be such resistance to carrying similar provisions into
the draft legislation on women bishops.
To expose women bishops to the sort of
contempt that many women priests have experienced will demand much
from them, as well as the full support of every male bishop in
overcoming the culture of disrespect in the Church towards women,
and not least towards women in ministry.
Perhaps "respect", including respect
for the majority as well as for the minority, is the key issue at
this stage of the debate, and even those who are uncertain what
respect means must be able to recognise disrespect when they see
it. If "the grace of God is in courtesy," we each should ask
questions of ourselves when we fail to show it.
10 Saxon Way, Ledbury, Herefordshire HR8 2QY
From Mrs April Alexander
Sir, - In my letter of 28 September, I
picked up a point made in the Chichester report about where the
responsibilities of area and suffragan bishops lay: "there is a
question over to whom a suffragan or area bishop is responsible."
Fortunately, the Dioceses Commission has also perceived this to be
a potential problem for the new diocese for West Yorkshire &
the Dales in their most recent report published this week:
"An important component of the
proposed area sees is that there should be clarity of roles as
between the diocesan and area bishops. The Commission is reinforced
in this view by the findings of the Archbishop of Canterbury's
Commissaries in relation to safeguarding issues in the diocese of
Chichester which recommended that the answerability of an area or
suffragan bishop to his diocesan should be clarified.
"The Commission has therefore proposed
an instrument setting out episcopal functions that would be
delegated (see Annex F), and those that would not be delegated. . .
Those responsibilities remaining with the diocesan bishop include
matters relating to both clergy discipline and safeguarding" (para
The instrument at Annex F makes
interesting reading, and is more detailed than Annex 2 of the
illustrative draft Code of Practice under the draft women-bishops
Measure. Annex F is, moreover, a draft instrument. It is to be
hoped that the working group for the Code of Practice will draft
something similar, and certainly something that keeps clergy
discipline and safeguarding as matters for the diocesan, in a list
of functions specifically not delegated (another innovation in
Despite the stated intention, however,
Annex F is still not explicit about "answerability", which I take
to mean to whom the individual is answerable, as well as the
functions for which he is answerable. It was this issue that
exercised the minds of the Archbishop's commissaries; so it is also
to be hoped that the Code of Practice working group will extend its
work to make this clear.
The difficulty appeared to stem from
the fact that "canonical obedience [is owed to] the archbishop",
while authority for functions delegated to area bishops in
Chichester came from the diocesan (footnote 4, page 7). The
confusion, it was felt, "needed to be addressed nationally". The
current Chichester arrangement, as described in footnote 4,
however, appears to be precisely what is enshrined in the new
clause 8(2) of the draft women-bishops Measure.
Ensuring that there is, none the less,
no confusion on answerability will be a key part of the working
group's task. The General Synod will need to satisfy itself on this
point when the Code of Practice is debated.
Southwark General Synod member
59 High Street, Bletchingley, Redhill, Surrey RH1 4PB
From Mr G. M. Lyon
Sir, - Those who vote against the
present women-bishops Measure will be voting for continuing unity
The Measure threatens unity in
parishes like the one I attend, where (since 1992) we have managed
to compromise and stay together. I hope Synod members will remember
that the minority threatened by the Measure includes ordinary,
orthodox Anglicans, scattered throughout central or broad parishes,
who also wish to keep a continuing, secure home somewhere in the C
of E. Like a number of Catholics and Evangelicals, for us central
conservatives, the passing of the present Measure would mean
the C of E's narrowing its bounds so as to leave us outside.
If, for the majority, we are to have
female bishops in a many-roomed Anglican house, we also need rooms
for the minority - rooms where the headship authority and validity
of the priest and sacraments remain assured beyond question. What
we require from the Synod is not respect, but rooms: to coin a
phrase, "loyal peculiars", i.e. distinct, non-geographical
ecclesial entities (of societies, parishes, dioceses?) with
first-class bishops for loyal, continuing Anglicans.
If providing for both majority and
minority takes the Synod more time, so be it. Better that than vote
"yes" now for the current Measure, which appears generally
Minority Anglicans wait to see if a
majority of Synod members think that they are better off without
us, or whether they really do believe that we are better
G. M. LYON
13, New Acres, Newburgh, Wigan, Lancs WN8 7TU
From Mr O. W. H. Clark
Sir, - The last-minute and somewhat
pathetic appeals by some bishops for Synod voters to abstain rather
than reject the proposed women-bishops legislation reveals only
their own disquiet over the adequacy and propriety of their own
They are right to be so concerned; for
what is now proposed is fundamentally and blatantly unfair.
Regardless of the Synod's voting in November, there will be no
peace in the Church until justice prevails.
Though a conviction opponent of women
bishops, I am content to serve in a Church of England with women
bishops if that is the required price of proponents' and opponents'
living together respectfully in one Church; but I must be treated
with respect, and safeguarded equally with those who differ from
When legislation on this matter begins
to take that course, and offers a genuine compromise - with the
place of the laity fairly recognised and expressed - I shall
joyously associate myself with it.
Until then, I urge my lay
representatives to vote "No" resolutely and without hesitation.
Synod members are elected to vote, not to opt out when the going
gets tough. Fiat justitia.
O. W. H. CLARK
5 Seaview Road, Highcliffe, Christchurch, Dorset BH23 5QJ