From the Bishops of Beverley, Ebbsfleet, Fulham, and
Sir, - We rejoice in all the gifts that God gives to his people
to further the mission and ministry of his Church. The women
ordained in 1994, and all those who have followed them, have made a
significant contribution to mission and ministry in the Church of
England, and we were glad that that contribution was recognised in
St Paul's Cathedral the Saturday before last (News,
We were saddened, however, at the Archbishop's suggestion, in
his sermon preached at that celebration, that those who have not
felt able in conscience to accept without qualification the
ordination of women as priests embody "the knee-jerk resistance of
an institution facing change".
The grounds for the exercise of conscientious dissent from the
priestly ordination of women are well known: the absence of
Catholic consent for this development in Catholic order, which the
Churchof England shares with the great Churches of East and West
which, like ourselves, are ordered in the historic episcopate.
In the proposals coming to the General Synod in July, which will
both open the way for the ordination of women to the episcopate and
at the same time enable the flourishing of all traditions within
the Church of England, the theological convictions of both those
who do, and do not, embrace the ordination of women have been
recognised as authentically and loyally Anglican. We are anxious
that this part of the Archbishop's sermon seems to undermine the
respect due to the classical Anglican position expressed by the
Five Principles in the House of Bishops' declaration, which he has
hitherto promoted as the key to mutual flourishing.
It would be a great shame if, at this late hour in this process,
those of the latter conviction were to be caricatured as merely
institutional conservatives, lacking their own prophetic gifts.
Like the priests and people in our care, we are committed to the
renewal and growth of our Church, to the proclamation of the
gospel, and to the service of our nation.
c/o The Old Deanery
London EC4V 5AA
From the Bishop of Chelmsford
Sir, - It was great to read the special features for the 20th
anniversary of women's priesthood (2 May). We all rejoice in this,
and it is wonderful that women's ordination as bishops is now
within sight. Both one of your excellent features and the front
page recalled that 125 years earlier our friends in the Salvation
Army had women serving in public ministry.
It is unfortunate that you didn't also celebrate the Church
Army, as an Anglican mission agency that has seen women deployed
and commissioned in public ministry since 1888. For more than 125
years, the Church Army has had male and female evangelists serving
the poor, preaching the gospel, and making a difference in the
lives of those on the edge.
The women's work in Church Army was founded by Marie Carlile,
sister of Wilson Carlile, the founder of Church Army. Women were
trained as Church Army evangelists in the UK, and were sent out to
help found Church Army societies all over the world. Church Army
Africa celebrates its 60th birthday this summer. Women were part of
the first staff of the embryonic Church Army in Nairobi.
Today, the Church Army's oldest evangelist is Sister Elsie
Thrush. Elsie is 104 years old, and she has been in Church Army
ministry for 81 years. She continues to share her faith with
others, and is a massive source of inspiration and encouragement to
us all. In fact, her blood sister Lily, who died a few years back,
also lived to 104, and was a commissioned Church Army evangelist
with more than 80 years of public ministry.
We, of course, celebrate the ministry of our Salvation Army
brothers and sisters, but it is also good to celebrate our own
Anglican Church Army as well.
Chair of Church Army
Ingatestone CM4 0HD
[The point is that women were accepted into the leadership
of the Salvation Army; but, of course, we acknowledge the
contribution of women Church Army evangelists. - Editor]
From the Revd Gareth Jones
Sir, - While the recent celebration of the 20th anniversary of
women priests was, no doubt, a happy and worthwhile occasion for
many, I cannot help thinking that such a celebration, regardless of
gender, smacks of the kind of clericalism that the Church of
England, by her very history, has always sought to eschew.
The irony is surely not lost on your readers that, in the fight
for women's ordination, many employed the rhetoric of the Church's
being a patriarchal and clericalist institution. What that
celebration shows is that we have come full circle, but just
changed the gender somewhere along the way.
GARETH E. J. P. JONES
St Mary's Vicarage
26 South Park Road
Ilford IG1 1SS