From Canon Paul Shackerley
Sir, - The letter from the three priests (7
March) is both disquieting and deficient in ecclesiology. Their
rationale is defective on two accounts.
In discerning a suitable priest for a post, not only to the
order of bishop, but in all ordained ministries and senior
appointments, the process in the Church of England has become both
competitive and discerning. Competitiveness and discernment present
the Church with an unspoken restlessness in discerning vocation,
because the motives of managerialism against ministerial dynamics
compete in the selection process. This is regardless of whether
interview panels and gatekeepers assert they are not.
As a supporter of the consecration of women to the episcopate, I
find the view held in the letter incongruous with God's calling to
us as priests and deacons. Its authors are merely colluding with
the gatekeepers of senior appointments, who, in some cases, eagerly
seek to appoint women rather than men to senior appointments. Is
sexism against men the new sexism?
I want to trust and believe that the Church of England has an
open and discerning process of selection for senior positions. This
letter does little to cultivate trust in the Church or the Holy
Spirit, and encourages neither discernment nor competitiveness.
Some gatekeepers of senior appointments may advertise that women
are under-represented in senior staff, implying two subliminal
dynamics at play in the selection process. First, men need not
apply because the gatekeepers are looking to appoint a woman
because women are waiting for preferment. Or, alternatively, women
will not apply on the condition that they will be appointed not for
their skills and calling by God and the Church, but simply because
they are women. This means that the discerning process is neither
competitive nor discerning, but a charade.
Such a condition will weaken the ministry of women rather than
open the doors of equality. If a male or a female priest feels
called by God to a senior appointment, he or she will be locked in
a process of selection that is between a rock and a hard place
rather than a prayerful seeking of God's will for their
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