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Bishops’ report puts Church of England back in the trenches

by
14 June 2013

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From the Revd Patrick Davies

Sir, - The proposed solution to help resolve the issue of women bishops, "option one", can be described only as a means of culling traditionalists. The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Peter Broadbent, gave it away in his tweet: "There will be provision . . . but not mainstream to the C of E" (News, 7 June).

And there we have it: the package is worse than what was previously offered. Those who advocate this development are probably jumping with glee: they know that traditionalists cannot accept this, and it will be the end of a Catholic and Evangelical presence in the Church of England. Instead, what will emerge is what has been desired all along: a liberal liturgical Protestant sect, which will spiritually rubber-stamp the secular state.

What was rightfully rejected by the General Synod last November has come back in a form that is intended to squeeze out Anglo-Catholics and conservative Evangelicals.

We are asked by those who wish to drive through this innovation to place our trust in them. Do they take us for fools? Do they seriously think that we are the wide-eyed boy Mowgli, gazing into the hypnotic eyes of the serpent Kaa as it serenades "Trust in me. . ."? Those who have seen The Jungle Book know that trust is the last thing Mowgli can do; for the snake is there only to devour him.

I fear that, unless conservative Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics wake up to what is happening, we will be de-churched.

Once more, we are back in the trenches. Unless some meaningful provision is offered, one in which the powerful majority takes the concerns of the minority seriously, civil war is inevitable. There has been much said about the pain that women have felt after the decision of the Synod last November, but there seems little if any attempt to understand the pain that traditionalists suffer. What of those priests who lie awake at night, worried sick, not knowing whether they will have a Church, a home, or a community to care for?

What of parishioners who face increasing uncertainty, not knowing whether their priest will be forced out? What of the parishes who now feel marginalised for holding to the traditional teaching of the vast majority of Christians? What of deanery-synod representatives who feel bullied, sidelined, and shunned for holding to traditional Anglican views? What of PCCs who will be denied the system of Resolutions, which, albeit imperfect, has kept a degree of unity in the Church of England?

It was the Revd Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes who likened women's treatment in the Church to that of a suffering spouse at the hands of an abusive husband. Sadly, there may be some truth in that, for which the Church needs to repent. This abuse has now been turned on its head, however. Those who feel that they were abused in this relationship are now fast becoming fully fledged abusers themselves. This can be measured by the increasing intransigence towards traditionalists and in denying the need to offer any dignified and meaningful provision.

I had hoped that talks with all groups concerned were intended to come to a compromise in which we could all live together. I thought that we could at least come to a solution where, while we didn't get all that we wanted, we could still all flourish and remain together. Sadly, what is proposed is once again one-sided and utterly unfair. I ask the House of Bishops to think again, before it's too late.

PATRICK DAVIES
Priest in Charge of St Crispin's,
Withington
296 Wilbraham Road
Manchester M21 0UU

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