From the Revd Dr Darrell
Sir, - I am a strong supporter of the consecration of women
as bishops. I am as dismayed as anyone at the failure of the
General Synod to pass the Measure. The damage that this failure
inflicts on the Church may well be with us for decades.
I am, however, equally distressed at
what I see as the failures of the supporters of the Measure, which
contributed to its defeat. While I nourished high hopes that the
Appleby amendment, which spoke of respect, might be enough to
assure traditionalists, I failed, and still fail, to see why there
was so much opposition to the Bishops' amendment, which would have
assured that the Code of Practice would have required "the
selection of male bishops or male priests the exercise of ministry
by whom is consistent with the theological convictions" of any PCC
who issued a Letter of Request.
Why should respect be acceptable, but
a decision "consistent with theological convictions" not be? Might
it be that many supporters of women bishops cannot bring themselves
to admit that what they would rather dismiss as prejudice and
sexism might actually be faithfully held theological convictions?
And is that not simply another form of prejudice? To be sure, I
have occasionally encountered prejudice and bias among
traditionalists. More often, I have found them to be principled and
devoted servants of Christ, with whom I happen to disagree over the
ministry of women.
I am told that the Bishops' amendment
would have unacceptably diminished the authority of women bishops.
A diminishment is incontrovertible, but it would have been no
greater than that which many male bishops have had to live with for
nearly 20 years, as they have shared their authority with the
so-called flying bishops.
Compromise is always difficult, but it
is always easier for those in a position of strength. It is clear
who is in that position: with 42 out of 44 dioceses' having voted
in favour, with a greater than two-thirds majority in the Houses of
Bishops and Clergy, with a solid majority in the House of Laity,
and the principle of women bishops having already been accepted, it
is clear who has won the argument.
The supporters of women bishops have
won the overall argument: there will be women bishops. We, then,
must face the fact that compromise will be easier for us than for
those who are opposed. It is, therefore, a source of real
frustration and even dismay to hear continually some supporters of
women bishops continuing to use a narrative of weakness and
victimhood about themselves. It is a matter of even greater concern
to hear the many supporters of women bishops now calling for a
single-clause Measure. I can imagine nothing more destructive to
any sense of unity which remains in the Church of England.
I have often felt that we have been
living in something of "a Rehoboam moment" (cf. 1 Kings 12.1-20).
If we respond as Rehoboam did, the loss will not be the northern
Ten Tribes, but rather a small number of priests, congregations,
and individuals. None the less, we will have made it clear that we
are really not interested in being a "broad Church", and that our
understanding of inclusion is in reality rather narrow.
DARRELL D. HANNAH
All Saints' Rectory, London Road Ascot, Berks SL5 8DQ
From Mr John Middleditch
Sir, - However much damage has been done to the standing and
reputation of the Church of England in the eyes of the general
public by the narrow failure to pass the Measure, I believe that
far more damage is being done by the manner in which some members
of the Church are responding, and the greatest damage of all will
be done by the way in which we continue the debate and move forward
to the inevitable consecration of women as bishops.
Writing in a different age, but one in
which there were also intense disagreements within the Church about
its future, Anthony Trollope put these words into the mouth of
Septimus Harding: "Believe me, . . . that Christian ministers are
never called on by God's word to insult the convictions, or even
the prejudices, of their brethren; and that religion is at any rate
not less susceptible of urbane and courteous conduct among men than
any other study which men may take up."
Making due allowance for the
gender-exclusive phrasing, they are words that we might all
consider and take as a guide to future conduct.
98 Freston, Peterborough PE4 7EW
From the Revd Dr John Peet
Sir, - Whether or not one agrees with the Revd Marie-Elsa
Bragg (Comment, 30 November) in her analysis of the part played by
bishops in the House of Lords, it is clear that the constitutional
crisis occasioned by the vote on the women-bishops Measure comes to
its sharpest focus at this point.
It would indeed be gross Erastianism
for the State to interfere with the internal workings of the
Church, even if the intention is to save the Church from itself.
But it is difficult to answer the question why an exclusively male
(and therefore discriminatory) group of people - i.e., bishops as
at present constituted - should automatically be entitled to a
place in the counsels of a non-discriminatory state.
This anomaly might usefully be
resolved by a self-denying ordinance on the part of the Bishops. As
one of the signs of repentance which the Church as a whole must
make, could not those bishops entitled to sit in the House of Lords
voluntarily renounce that right until they do not (shamefully) have
to receive exemption from equality laws?
The disadvantage of being unable to
contribute their wisdom would be outweighed by a number of factors:
such an act would be a public confession that the Church of England
is in an untenable (and temporary) position; it would convey a due
sense of penitence; it might instil some urgency into the House of
Bishops' deliberations; and it would indicate to the politicians
that the Church of England does not intend to let this matter
The Vicarage, 3 Meadow Close
From the Revd Viv Bridges
Sir, - I am amazed, and somewhat alarmed at the suggestion of
having a "Silent Sunday". I wonder whom this is intended to
influence. In many cases, it will affect and distress those people
who are already distressed by the fall of the women-bishops
Many parishes have women ministering
in them, and they value this ministry enormously. If the women
involved in such ministry protest in the manner suggested, it will
only hurt the congregations who are already hurting. I doubt
whether it will have any effect whatever on those people who do not
support women's ministry.
It seems to me that, as women priests,
we should be doing all we can to support our parishes, their laity
and their clergy, among whom are many men who have been greatly
distressed by the vote. It is a time for care and compassion. I
believe that this will have a far greater influence on the wider
world than making knee-jerk protests that only hurt the people who
love us most.
6 Haslemere Gardens
Oxford OX2 8EL
From the Revd Jonathan
Sir, - The Bristol diocesan synod's lack of confidence in the
General Synod is misplaced. Unpalatable though it may be, it
nevertheless has to be accepted that the Synod did what it is
supposed to do: it screened out legislation that did not ultimately
command enough support, and thereby spared us from a set of
arrangements which were very widely regarded as in themselves
I wonder how many of those wishing
that the House of Bishops had been able to force its will over
women in the episcopate would have felt the same over the Anglican
St Augustine's Vicarage
Rock Avenue, Gillingham
Kent ME7 5PW
From the Revd Chris Goble
Sir, - I write as a supporter of women bishops, but also with
concern for some of the responses. Some response to support the
incredible work, and witness, of women priests is important, but
some responses are in danger of creating more division.
I am particularly concerned about the
"pinny protest", for theological and practical reasons.
Theologically, it may be seen to mock the servant role, which Jesus
set as an example in washing the disciples' feet. The action may be
intended as a "mockery that they are fit only for tea-making", and
yet the spirit of hospitality that is central to our faith should
be celebrated, not mocked.
I also wonder why men are only asked
to wear a purple ribbon. This fails to acknowledge the important
part that men play in hospitality. In most of the churches I have
served, men and women are involved in hospitality, serving
refreshements and encouraging fellowship.
I am also concerned about what this
protest says to the many men and women for whom their service of
the church is "tea-making". Does it mean that the Church believes
that bishops are important and tea-making isn't? We will, I hope
and believe, have women bishops, but not at the expense of decrying
any other way in which people serve the church community.
The Rectory, Ilmington
Warwickshire CV36 4LB
From Canon Christopher Hall
Sir, - Canon Rosie Harper [News, 30 November) urges
electoral-roll enfranchisement. I have to dissent, not merely on
the grounds of cost. The last lay member to be elected in Oxford
diocese in 2010 had a mandate of fewer than 50 votes. The low
turn-out of deanery-synod electors is because they do not know the
candidates. That was true of the recent Police Commissioners'
elections. A fortiori, it would be true if electoral-roll
members were enfranchised.
If electors are not fully informed,
democracy cannot function. Since I was first elected in 1972, the
restrictions on access to the electors have got ever tighter, so
that it is the strongly motivated (and funded) networks who get
their candidates known and disproportionately elected.
The Open Synod Group used to produce
The Key, which was distributed to deanery-synod members,
raising awareness of the election, and setting out the issues on
which to quiz the candidates. That stopped when synodical channels
were closed to us.
In 2000, we engaged most of the groups
to launch a pioneer national website. I failed to get Church House
to take up the idea in the run-up to 2005. In 2010, Bristol and
Gloucester used the internet; pace those who are not
online, the internet should be fully used by every diocese and
Banbury OX15 0TB
From the Revd J. P. Hoskins
Sir, - In his column last week, Canon Giles Fraser wrote:
"One of the biggest lies, which is often trotted out by liberals,
is that they 'respect' the 'deeply held beliefs' of those who 'in
conscience' are against the ordination of women as priests or
bishops. Most don't. I don't."
Although, sadly, I agree with Canon
Fraser's analysis, I profoundly disagree with his conclusion. That
many are now publicly saying similar things to him is, to my mind,
the most discouraging aspect of our current situation. I am a
supporter of the ordination of women bishops, and would have voted
in favour last month. But, unlike Canon Fraser and many others who
claim to be "liberals", I do also respect the deeply held views of
those who are opposed.
This is not just "niceness", as he
rather condescendingly puts it. It has long seemed to me that if,
in the mysterious purposes of God, there is any point at all in the
Anglican experiment, it is to remind the Church as a whole of our
calling to be one. Our vocation is to be an icon, an example of
what it looks like to insist on remaining in communion - liberals
and conservatives, Evangelicals and Catholics alike - loving one
another even when we passionately disagree.
To be in unity with our sisters and
brothers is not to agree about everything. But it is to make a
profound commitment, even so, to stick together, "bearing with one
another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the
Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4.2-3).
If the Church of England fails to find
ways of maintaining the bonds of affection through the Spirit of
love, I will no longer be sure what the point is of remaining
Anglican. But perhaps I am just too nice.
JOHN PAUL HOSKINS
4a Millers Green
Gloucester GL1 2BN
From Mr David Pidgeon
Sir, - Now that the details of the voting at General Synod
are known, your readers would be forgiven for thinking that in the
diocese of Chichester there are few who support women's ministry or
who wish to see the consecration of women as bishops.
May I assure them that there are very
many of us in deepest Sussex who hold contrary views to those
demonstrated at Synod; who wish fervently that our own bishops
would ordain women as priests; and who support the consecration of
Meanwhile, we can only hope that the
new Bishop of Chichester, unlike his predecessor, will not close
his mind to the appointment of a suffragan bishop (currently
pending) who would be pleased to ordain women to the priesthood and
then offer them the full support which has been lacking in the
Such an appointment would make some
proper provision (!) in the diocese for those, clergy and lay, who
reflect the majority view of the Church of England on this
9 Hurstfield Close
West Sussex RH17 7BQ
From Margaret Saunders
Sir, - I am feeling ashamed and embarrassed to be a female
member of the Church of England at present, and I know that I am
Presumably, everyone in the Synod who
voted prayed before the vote, but because the Measure did not
finally go through, it would seem then we should accept that it was
not God's will, however hard that may be.
Genesis tells us that we are made in
God's image. When have we ever seen God behave in the puerile way
of some of those who were lawfully defeated? As Anglican clergy are
expected to say the Offices daily, presumably the words in the
Lord's Prayer, "thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," must
be being said by many, but without conviction. What an
29 Bedingfield Way
Kent CT18 8JH
From Mr Frank Cranmer
Sir, - "Britain needs bishops in the Lords" (headline,
Comment, 30 November). A misprint for "England", maybe?
7 Teangue, Sleat
Isle of Skye IV44 8RE
From Mr J. S. Richardson
Sir, - Are supporters of women bishops about to change the
rules in order to win on a further vote?
As a layman, I understood that, after
much prayer, a decision by the Synod was the will of God. This
obviously applies only when the liberals win.
J. S. RICHARDSON
7 Woodlands Farm Road
Bimringham B24 0PJ
From Barbara Hawkes
Sir, - On Sunday evening, I attended the procession that
starts our church/town Christmas Tree Festival. The Three Kings, on
camels, were all female. Is this a sign?
5 Fell Croft, Dalton-in-Furness
Cumbria LA15 8DD