THE campaign group WATCH (Women and the Church) has urged the Archbishop of Canterbury and cathedral deans to ensure that a man opposed to women bishops is not allowed to interrupt any more consecrations.
The same man has made public objections at the past four consecration services. At some of these, space for his objection was created during the service, and he was handed a microphone, WATCH has said.
In a statement last month, the group said that it had written to Archbishop Welby asking him to stop the man from disrupting future consecrations. “We were assured that such practices were not enabled, but there could be no guarantee that they would not occur without warning. We understand that,” WATCH said in a statement.
In June at Canterbury Cathedral, however, at the consecrations of the Bishop of Dorking, the Rt Revd Jo Wells (who was previously Archbishop Welby’s chaplain), and the Bishop of Repton, the Rt Revd Jan McFarlane, the planned objection made by the Revd Stephen Holland, an independent Evangelical minister from Bolton, was flagged up during the Dean’s opening remarks.
WATCH says that means his objections became part of the liturgy; and, in an attempt to subvert this, Hilary Cotton, who chairs WATCH, walked out of Canterbury Cathedral as Mr Holland began to speak, saying, “I resist this expression of discrimination.”
“Such interruptions create the perception that the Church is willing to allow a woman who has been called by God and the Church, and appointed by the Crown, to be publicly insulted and undermined,” WATCH’s statement said.
“If that is so, it undermines and insults all women; and especially women for whom female bishops are potent symbols of a radical shift in the Church’s treatment of women. ‘Maybe things haven’t changed at all, underneath,’ they might conclude.”
The statement ends by encouraging supporters of women bishops to write to various deans expressing their desire that protests should not be facilitated at future consecrations.
A spokeswoman for the Archbishop of Canterbury declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Canterbury Cathedral said: “It had been advised that an objection was to be raised during the ordination and consecration of two bishops in Canterbury Cathedral in June. This objection was heard when the congregation was asked ‘Is it now your will that they should be ordained?’
“The question was then repeated, and following a resounding affirmation from the congregation, the service continued.”
Asking the congregation for their assent to a bishop’s consecration was first introduced in Common Worship in 2000, and most ecclesiastical law experts suggest that, unlike asking about objections during a marriage service, it is not a legal necessity for the valid consecration of a bishop.