From the Bishop of Brechin
Sir, - Last week, I returned from
Swaziland, where I participated in the joyful consecration of
Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya as the first woman bishop in Africa. Our
dioceses have been companions since 1989.
Archbishop Thabo described her
election as "a gift to the province", in marked contrast to the
news of the rejection of women bishops in the Church of
As a member of England's General
Synod, 1995-2010, I spoke in favour of women bishops on a number of
occasions. It is frustrating that the mind of the Church has again
been thwarted by a concern for dissenters and by voting procedures.
The latter require review, but I would caution against changing a
two-thirds threshold for important decisions. Some in Scotland are
anxious that our forthcoming referendum on independence might be
decided by a slim simple majority that will not command
Perhaps the issues for the Church to
address are whether voting by Houses of Bishops, Clergy, and Laity
is any longer plausible, and for which proposals setting the voting
bar higher is really necessary.
Swaziland, a beautiful country with
huge challenges, has a culture not noted for political democracy or
gender equality, and yet the Anglican diocese moves forward. The
public mood in our islands is clearly in favour of women bishops,
and the sooner the better for our missionary task.
Bishop's House, 5 Glamis Drive Dundee DD2 1QG
From the Revd Bernice
Sir, - I heard with dismay, in Mumbai,
the report of the General Synod on BBC World, failing to include
women in the episcopate, again. The cry goes up "How long?"
I hope the Holy Spirit will lead the
next Synod to propose an unamendable one-clause motion to include
women, with a completely separate following motion concerning the
Code of Practice and other procedures for accommodating those still
remaining who are disaffected.
We might then know the real mind of
86 Woodburn, Leam Lane, Gateshead NE10 8LY
From the Revd Dr Jennifer
Sir, - Congratulations are due to your
crossword compiler Margaret Irvine for such speedy topicality.
Perhaps we should have taken note before last Tuesday that in the
world of anagrams, "the house of laity" does indeed make "you lose
the faith". Such a pity that it also does in the real world.
Horsedale House, Silver Street, Huggate, York YO42 1YB
From Prebendary Kay
Sir, - After the failure of the
women-bishops Measure, there are three things that are now
First, the House of Laity of the
General Synod is in no way representative of the laity of the
Church. If 42 diocesan synods say yes, and the House of Laity says
no, there must be something wrong. We must look carefully at the
election system, and, if necessary, at the way the Synod itself
works (when and how it meets, etc.) in order to allow a more
representative group to be elected.
Second, negotiating legal provisions
for those who cannot accept women's ministry will not work: we have
toiled for many years on this, and it is clear that legal provision
is not the way forward. We must next time go for a simple,
single-clause Measure, and trust each other that proper, generous
provision will be made through grace and love.
Third, it is imperative that the House
of Bishops find a way of including women in its deliberation and
decision-making process from now on. Experience tells us that 44
men in a room together, however well-intentioned, will not reach a
balanced decision, any more than 44 women in a room. That's why God
made men and women to work together.
Birch Lodge, Much Birch, Herefordshire HR2 8HT
From Lady Oppenheimer
Sir, - What can the laity of the
Church of England do to repudiate without delay this misleadingly
inadequate vote in our name? I have been a communicant Anglican for
70 years, and the congregations to which I have belonged have never
been officially asked to make a judgement on this matter, or
invited to vote directly for members of the General Synod to
represent their opinions for them.
L'Aiguillon, Grouville, Jersey, CI, JE3 9AP
From Mr Andrew Connell
Sir, - It is now surely time for
Parliament to step in and protect the Church from herself - or at
least from an unrepresentative but disproportionately powerful
minority of her members.
A one-clause Bill, stating that no
person shall be disqualified by reason of his or her sex from the
office of bishop in the Church of England, would suffice, and could
be quite quickly passed if the Government were to lend its support.
(I would be pleased to see this extended to include the Church in
Wales, but the relationship there is, of course, different.)
Many people worked very hard to find a
formula that could accommodate the minority who oppose the
ordination of women to the episcopate. The most obdurate members of
that minority have at a stroke undone all that work.
If straightforward and unconditional
legislation to allow women to become bishops were passed, it would
be for them rather than the leadership of the Church to explain to
their more reasonable fellow opponents how such a state of affairs
had come to pass.
87 Clodien Avenue, Cardiff CF14 3NN
From the Revd Nigel
Sir, - Why should the country put up
with it? Most people are dumbfounded that a minority in one of
three Houses can prevent something that the large majority in the
Church and in the country wish to see.
If Parliament had such a system, the
Government would not be able to pass its budget, we would never
have joined the European Union, and probably we would not yet have
the vote for women. As a nation, we would be ungovernable.
As a Church, we still aim to love our
brothers and sisters even when they disagree with us - but
Parliament has no such duty even to tolerate what is by any normal
definition an undemocratic decision. Accordingly, Parliament should
remove those exemptions to equality legislation given to the Church
of England which allow us to get away with it.
If women are not to be permitted to be
bishops, then naturally Parliament should not allow an all-male
bench of bishops any further tenure in the House of Lords. Should a
body like this have control over aspects of the educational system?
That should concentrate the Synod's thinking nicely.
St Ann's Rectory, 98 Rigby Street, Higher Broughton, Salford M7
From Mr Tom Jamieson
Sir, - Might there be six members of
the House of Laity who voted against willing to take this action:
to write to the Synod Standing Committee to indicate that they now
see that they have made a mistake, and to ask that the legislation
be brought to the Synod again at the earliest opportunity, so they
might this time vote for? Please?
64 Main Road, Ryton, Tyne and Wear NE40 3AJ
From the Revd Christopher
Sir, - The Bishops had spoken. Surely,
the Catholic and traditional thing to do was to follow their
Last week's vote in the General Synod
does nothing to enhance the opinion of the Church of England among
the people of the country. The vote - and the repercussion of it -
is an appalling example of Protestantism and congregationalism.
Do we have a gospel to proclaim, or
are we so enthralled in the minutiae of the gender of our clergy
that we lose sight of the Kingdom of God?
8 Bronte Street, Hulme, Manchester M15 6QL
From the Revd Maggie
Sir, - Can we book the Second Sunday
of Advent for all women in the Church to be silent?
You may be present; you may take a day
off. You may organise rotas so that there are no women presiding,
preaching, reading, or leading intercessions, and no sideswomen.
And all women in the congregation can pray in silence. Let the men
do it all.
If that's scary, take a day off. Most
congregations will be wholly supportive and join in, even the
I would suggest that we don't ask men
for permission, but can let them know, and advise the PCC. Let's
8 Bath Terrace, Victoria Road, Bicester, Oxon OX26 6PR
From the Revd Mark
Sir, - Once again, the Church of
England has told the world that it deems women unfit for high
office; that its decision-making processes are dysfunctional; and,
perhaps worst of all, that Christians do not trust one another.
Many young Christians I know - male
and female - are questioning whether they really want anything to
do with a Church like this. Their non-Christian friends are asking
them why on earth they stick with it.
One young potential ordinand has
already declared his intention to move to the Open Episcopal
It is now that little bit harder for
young Anglicans to hold fast to faith: Christian faith looks that
bit less convincing today than it did last week. We will have our
work cut out if we are to demonstrate that these Christians really
do love each other.
St Mary's Vicarage, Stamfordham, Newcastle upon Tyne NE18 0QQ
From Mrs Jean Heaney
Sir, - A disaster for the Church and
country. How about having a referendum of all church members to get
a true picture?
Amber Bank, Chase Road, Ambergate, Derbyshire DE56 2HA
From the Revd David Hill
Sir, - It seems obvious that the basic
reason behind opposition to female clergy and bishops is not
theological but is deeply rooted in their psychology. Has any
research been done into the parental upbringing - whether strongly
patriarchal, etc. - of those who feel so threatened and emotionally
upset by the prospect of having women bishops?
24 London Road, Spalding PE11 2TA
From the Archdeacon of The
Sir, - I write as a committed
Evangelical to express my annoyance and indignation at the public
response of the chairman of Reform after the Synod vote on women
bishops (News, 23 November). For the Revd Rod Thomas to claim that
this was a vote that prevents us becoming "a less inclusive Church"
is to ignore totally the missionary imperative that sees that
Church as being primarily for benefit of the nation around us, and
to fail to comprehend the devastating effect this vote will have on
our credibility and therefore our witness to our nation.
If we are satisfied with a narrow
vision of "inclusive", which we define to mean "those who already
belong", then we are no longer the Church for our nation, but
merely an ever diminishing and irrelevant sect.
Similarly, I was quite staggered by
the arrogance of Mr Thomas's suggestion that the vote has
safeguarded the position of those "who as faithful Anglicans, seek
to follow the Bible's teaching". I, too, seek to sit under
scripture and to be guided and governed by it, and it is as the
result of prayerful wrestling with scripture that I have become
convinced that we need to ordain women bishops for the sake of the
gospel, for the sake of our nation, and for the sake of God-given
As a lifelong Evangelical, I say:
"Reform? Not in my name!"
Victoria Lodge, 36 Osborn Road, Fareham, Hants PO16 7DS
From Mr Steve Vince
Sir, - Is anyone more disappointed
than the Ordinariate?
13 Selwyn Close, Wolverhampton WV2 4NQ
From Canon Stephen Race
Sir, - As a parish priest, rural dean,
and diocesan director of ordinands, I meet an extraordinary
diversity of people who worship regularly as Anglicans or, for
whatever reason, associate themselves with the Established
It seems evident to me that ours is a
Church that faces criticism from within and without, that is
reminded regularly of its numerical decline and questionable
position in national life, but that is peopled by prayerful,
dedicated disciples of Jesus. It is simultaneously in decline while
filled with vitality and hope.
It is in this context that I suggest
we consider the outcome of the General Synod's vote. I am sure that
most of us prayed for God's guidance at the time of elections to
the Synod, that we prayed for the Synod as it deliberated, and that
we prayed before and while the voting occurred. The result reveals
that a large majority wanted to invite women into episcopal
ministry with the proposed legislation (72.6 per cent), but that a
substantial minority (27.4 per cent) did not.
What could the Holy Spirit be telling
us? Is it that a handful of people have deliberately disobeyed God
and thwarted his will, or that to move forward in our pilgrimage we
need to be more patient and sensitive towards the needs of all
members of our family?
When Barnsley deanery synod debated
the legislation, every speaker recognised the need and obligation
of the Church to have women bishops, and yet it voted by a
substantial majority to ask the diocesan synod to reject the
proposed legislation. Why? Because we wanted to know in advance
what pastoral provision would be provided for those who simply
cannot accept the changes.
A woman priest and a traditionalist
male priest both spoke movingly and convincingly against the
proposal, hugged each other, and committed themselves to working
together in the future.
Let's not get bogged down with issues
of short-term credibility, and work together to find a long term
solution that will re-enable all members of the Church to care for
the nation, as we are called to do.
Next time this comes before the
General Synod, could we please have, in advance, the proposed Code
of Practice, so that all our representatives can vote with
confidence, that we may get the bishops we want and the support we
The Vicarage, Green Road, Dodworth, S. Yorks S75 3RT
From Canon Richard
Sir, - Anglican fudge has failed. Can
we please now re-examine the third-province option? (Presumably it
would need two dioceses, one Anglo-Catholic and one Evangelical, in
keeping with the current fashion for choice.)
This would do away with the whole
un-Catholic palaver of separate bishops, confirmations,
ordinations, chrism masses and chapters, all supposedly within one
diocese. Priests would no longer be ordained into a ministry of
which they only accept a part. And the two ancient provinces of the
Church of England would once again become a fit body to engage in
efforts for unity with other denominations
7 Love Lane, Rye TN31 7NE
From Canon Andrew Dow
Sir, - When I first joined the General
Synod in 1995, the then Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Michael
Baughen, gave me a rule of thumb for approaching Synod motions and
debates. "If you go for gold," he said (in other words, the most
that you want, the very best as you see it), "you are likely to
lose all. However, if you go for silver (not your ideal, but a step
in the right direction), you are more likely to gain."
Never has his dictum proved more true
than in the result of last week's debate on women bishops. As I
witnessed first hand over a long period, the supporters of women
bishops pressed for their "gold" with a scorched-earth policy
towards their opponents which voted down amendment after amendment
that, if passed, could have enabled conservatives and
traditionalists to come on board.
Besides this strategic error, they
also focused too much on the ungodly issue of a woman bishop's
status, as opposed to the more biblical notion of servanthood,
regardless of "position". As a result, they have lost all.
Their understandable distress is very
sad for the Church; but ultimately it is they who are responsible.
I sincerely hope that the next generation of proponents of women
bishops will learn from their mistakes.
17 Brownlow Drive, Stratford-upon-Avon CV37 9QS
From Mr Christopher
Sir, - "Unfair", the cry goes up: 72.6
per cent of Synod members voted in favour of women bishops. If a
company, including charities, wishes to change its Articles, the
law says 75 per cent of the votes are needed. Parliament recognises
this with its Wharncliffe Order procedure.
"Wilfully blind to the some of the
trends and priorities of that wider society." Since when did the
servant Christ take his lead from the wider society?
Between 1975 and 1990, when I was on
the General Synod, I was eager for the ordination of women. I was
relieved when flying bishops were provided. The Synod showed itself
tolerant of tolerance and intolerant of intolerance.
This time, the Synod has itself to
blame. Attempting to repeal the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod
1993 was intolerant of tolerance. If men and women are equal, how
can a flying bishop who failed to undermine a male bishop undermine
a female bishop?
In May 2010, when appointing flying
bishops, the Archbishop of Canterbury said: "I have two new
suffragans and General Synod can't simply take them away. The
pastoral need will not go away." The need is greater than ever: to
show visibly the wider society the virtue of being intolerant of
Oldstone Furlong, Fownhope, Hereford HR1 4PJ
From the Revd Dr Robert
Sir, - After the result of the vote
taken at Synod, and the seeming outrage that the House of Laity
upset the apple cart, it ought to be remembered, that, of the three
Houses (the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy, and the House of
Laity), the most important is the House of Laity, simply
because this is what the Church is, the People of God.
Bishops and priests are the least
important members in any Church, although they are most certainly
the last either to recognise or to accept this. It is good to see
that at last, in this vote at least, the People of God have come
into their own. Let us pray that this will not be the last
2 Cherrytree Road, Fishponds, Bristol BS16 4EY
From Mr Stephen Mott
Sir, - What is significant to me is
that this appears to show a dysfunctional relationship between the
ordained members of the Church and those who attend for
I wonder if it emphasises the strong
possibility that bishops and clergy have stopped listening to the
laity and are pursuing their own self-centred agendas? This
certainly seems to be happening at diocesan and local levels, where
bishops and clergy try to impose their wills on the worshippers. No
wonder the churches are emptying fast.
Never mind women bishops; the pattern
of voting could be seen as a wake-up call to all those ordained to
re-engage with the needs and hopes of the laity, who may, in fact,
be better at judging what is needed for the Church to grow and
succeed than those bishops and clergy who seem to be obsessed with
their own self-seeking, self-preserving agendas.
It is to be hoped that the new
Archbishop of Canterbury, with his significant work outside the
ordained ministry in the oil industry, will have the necessary
skills to listen to what the ordinary churchgoer has to say and
15 Church Street, Shap, Penrith CA10 3JU
From the Revd John Wright
Sir, - If, as some have proposed,
restrictions are placed on the Church of England in reaction to the
Synod vote on women bishops, the Church will need to heed again
John Keble's words against "national apostasy". In the 19th
century, when Parliament interfered in the running of the Church,
John Keble preached a sermon with this title (the Assize Sermon),
which also gave rise to the Anglo-Catholic movement.
St Cuthman's Vicarage, Whitehawk, Brighton BN2 5HW
From Celia Bush
Sir, - So, Bishop Barry Rogerson
"urges lay people to question more closely the views of their
General Synod members and look more carefully the next time they
vote for them" (News, 23 November).
I find this comment both patronising
and offensive. Lay people elect the representatives whose views
they agree with and wish to be represented in Synod. Just because
the opposite view to Bishop Rogerson's and others' happens to have
prevailed, does it not occur to them that this is indicative of
what numbers of faithful laity sincerely feel about the proposed
legislation as it stood?
No doubt, if the vote had gone the
other way, Bishop Rogerson and others would have been applauding
the House of Laity for their contribution.
With respect, it is this spirit of
condescension that is still hampering efforts to achieve proper
provision for those opposed. "Those for
whom the provision is intended do not
own it," observed Dr Philip Giddings, who is, yes, the chairman of
the House of Laity.
169 Humber Doucy Lane, Ipswich IP4 3PA
From Michael Cavanagh
Sir, - If the two Archbishops had
insisted on their amendment, I am sure the Measure would have
succeeded. As it was, they caved in, and it was rightly rejected.
What an own goal!
MICHAEL CAVANAGH PACK
The Manor House, Thurloxton, Taunton, Somerset TA2 8RH
From Mr Tim Belben
Sir, - I am appalled to think that we
should all now descend into recriminations, and ask the Synod to
change the rules - a move that would hardly enhance its authority.
I think there is some confusion between the courtesy that we owe,
in Christ, to each other's beliefs, and genuine issues of
May I ask for a small working party to
clarify the differences, as a preliminary to any revised draft
legislation? Such a team should represent both "sides", and address
itself to providing us with unanimously agreed answers to the
First, if the objection to women
bishops is because scripture is inspired, then: does the Pauline
prohibition of female headship therefore have the status of a
divine command, or does "inspiration" merely confirm the accuracy
of the record: i.e., that this is what St Paul wrote? Can the
"headship" Pauline statement be reconciled with other Pauline
statements, e.g. "in Christ there is neither . . .".
Second, is it ever possible for the
regulations accepted by the Early Church to be amended in response
to cultural change, and, if so, in what circumstances? In what way
could this answer be compared with St Paul's consultations with the
Jerusalem Christian leaders?
Third, if the objection to women
bishops is on based on concerns about apostolic succession, is this
a matter of faith, or a matter of church order? Does not the Roman
condemnation of all Anglican Orders make irrelevant any
conscientious distinction between Anglican male bishops and
proposed Anglican female bishops?
Fourth, if, nevertheless, concerns
about ordained women are a matter of conscience, and therefore some
members need to be protected from the ministrations of ministers
"not validly ordained", does such protection have to be by statute?
(i.e church legislation that requires a two-thirds majority in each
House of the Synod), or is there any form of non-statutory
regulation or undertaking that would be acceptably binding?
Fifth, if protection for those unable
to accept the ministration of women bishops (or priests) is
provided (whether statutory or not), is that provision considered
to be an insult to ordained individuals, and therefore to be
received with humility, or a humiliation for all women, or for all
ordained women? Is there a difference between something that might
be received with humility, and something that is taken as a
If so, can a draft safeguard be
prepared that would call for humility but avoids being
I think that if we had clear answers
to these questions, some of the solutions might become obvious.
Church Farm, Wookey, Wells, Somerset BA5 1JX
From the Revd Donald
Sir, - I listened to the debate about
women bishops. I heard most of the 100 or so speeches. It was
exhausting, listening to speech after speech that repeated old
But what was most enervating was the
total failure to acknowledge those who held different views from
the speakers'. The "debate" may as well have been held in two
different rooms - one for those supporting the Measure, another for
those opposing it.
One thing that I have learnt as a
peacebuilder for 12 years in the Balkans is that there can be no
progress towards anything approaching reconciliation unless working
relationships are established between those who profoundly disagree
with each other. That is the heart of the process of
So the Church of England needs
carefully and quickly to create those oppportunities where these
conversations between widely different views can be held.
There is a wealth of experience to
assist in setting up such a process. I have learnt from John Paul
Lederach, Professor of Peacebuilding at Notre Dame University, and
the late Adam Curle, one of the founders of the Bradford Institute
for Peace Studies - both academics and practitioners. There are
This approach is not a panacea. It
could collapse at any time. Spoilers will disrupt wherever they
can, and there are plenty of them in the Church of England. But be
prepared for surprises and outcomes that no one foresaw.
As it happened, I had just returned
from Kosovo before the debate. There, after many months, the Soul
of Europe had managed to bring together Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo
Albanians to agree on integrating the Serbian Orthodox
Patriarachate in Pec into the life of a now Muslim town -
unthinkable a year ago.
Unless these conversations happen,
there will be yet another repetition of that miserable day for the
Church of England.
Director, The Soul of Europe, The Coach House, Church Street
Crediton EX17 2AQ
From Ben Dyson, Emma Racklyeft,
and Patrick Gilday
Sir, - As ordinands in training at
Wycliffe Hall - two of us committed theologically to women's
consecration to the episcopate, and one of us to a pattern of male
leadership in the Church - we find ourselves at the sharp end of
many of the issues raised in the debate on the women-bishops
We ourselves have had to learn to
submit to one another, to cherish, nurture, and celebrate one
another as ministers for Christ in spite of, and sometimes because
of, our disagreement. We have had to go out of our way to
subordinate our theological position to our unity in Christ. It has
been very painful for all of us at times. There have been tears,
arguments, misunderstandings - but also profound joy, deep
commitment, and a good deal of laughter.
It has been our experience, and it has
become our conviction, that this way of life has made us better
followers of the Messiah who "made himself nothing" for our sakes
We commend this way of life to the
whole Church. Dare to trust one another; run the risk of losing
everything; be prepared to give, and keep giving when it feels as
if there is nothing left to give. And do all this, not simply
because it is the pattern of Christ, but because the reward is that
unspeakable joy, affirmation, security, and friendship that our
aching world so yearns after.
There will be hard days ahead for
those involved in drawing up a new Measure. But, with a spirit of
costly submission to one another, we believe that all of us -
conservative Evangelical, traditional Catholic, open, progressive,
broad, and undecided - can step out into a better unity that is
good news for the whole Church of England.
BEN DYSON, EMMA RACKLYEFT, PATRICK
Wycliffe Hall, Oxford OX2 6PW
From the Revd Virginia J.
Sir, - May I point to one truly
positive outcome that has arisen from last week's Synod vote on
women bishops? That is the overwhelming support that has been shown
to women priests, affirming their ministry.
This support has come from bishops,
fellow clergy, and the laity, and it has demonstrated not only
affirmation, but enormous care, love, and compassion.
Just to receive or hear such messages
has revealed and demonstrated the love of Christ that, thank God,
remains at the heart of the spiritual life and mission of the
Church of England.
VIRGINIA J. SMITH
14 The Paddock, Westcott, Dorking RH4 3NT