New user? Register here:
Email Address:
Password:
Retype Password:
First Name:
Last Name:
Existing user? Login here:
 
 
Leader comment >

Lost in translation

Click to enlarge

THE shifting tectonic plates of the earth’s crust come together in three different ways: they butt full on into each other; one overrides another; or they grind along together. For years, the two plates that were formed over the ordination of women butted into each other. With the passing of the women-bishops legislation, secured with the help of assurances for the protection of traditionalists, the Church appeared to be in for a few years of grinding along together. Less than three years later, it looks as if the third process is now under way. As Bishop North remains in Burnley to lick his wounds, and Sheffield diocese remains without a diocesan, it is easy to concentrate on the faultlines, since these are where the earthquakes happen. The more serious question, however, relates to the plates: how can the Church function (let alone flourish) if its members behave as if those with a different view are on another continent?

Those who queried Bishop North’s translation to Sheffield have been keen to point out that their opposition was not personal. It was personal, and to more than just him, in the way that theological and ecclesiological disputes generally are. More to the point, it was specific, as the national principles were applied in a particular place. This is where the Crown Nominations Commission appears to have got it wrong. The Sheffield diocese has an unhappy history on the issue of women’s ordination. In the early 1990s, the then Bishop, the Rt Revd David Lunn, threatened to resign. Successive bishops have worked hard and relatively successfully to reconcile the different camps, but it is being reported that, because of this history, the vacancy-in-see committee was advised not to consider a women diocesan this time. No mention was made of a traditionalist. Another factor was opinion in Sheffield at large, where pride attaches to the city’s hosting of the earliest meeting of the women’s suffrage movement. There was thus widespread puzzlement at the Church’s choice.

Given the majorities in favour of women’s ordination in the Church and among the general public, it is hard to imagine a diocese where similar conditions will not prevail. Thus traditionalist priests find themselves in the same position as the first women priests: tolerated, even encouraged, but with no prospect of preferment to higher office. This was not what the Synod voted for, nor, judging by the letters we have received, what many people want. Once again, the Church is damaged by an all-too-human unwillingness to engage with difference. There is a way forward, if the will is there: the programme of regional Shared Conversations about same-sex relations, for all its flaws, was an acknowledgement that potential changes need to be received rather than imposed. For, if principles are to be applied successfully, tolerance is not enough: wisdom, patience, and commitment are needed as well. Without these, the unity of any Church is in jeopardy.

Job of the week

Assistant Chaplain & UK Director

London and Home Counties

Zacharias Trust Assistant Chaplain & UK Director Salary: £45,000-£47,500 plus benefits (experience dependent) Oxford (37.5 hours per week) We have an exciting opportunity for an Assist...  Read More

Signup for job alerts
Top feature

Making money work for others

Making money work for others

Continuing our Lent series on aspects of money, Matthew Bishop explores the links between philanthropy and faith  Subscribe to read more

Top comment

Doing without bacon rolls and paintball

To base ‘men’s ministry’ on tired stereotypes is not necessary, and may be unhelpful, argues Anne Bennett  Subscribe to read more

Tue 28 Mar 17 @ 20:29
Listen to the first episode of the Church Times Podcast- The latest on the Llandaff row & @malcolmguite on Coleridge https://t.co/BuiRqOzmBg

Tue 28 Mar 17 @ 15:31
To mark Mothering Sunday, Pat Ashworth explores some of the challenges associated with ageing mothers https://t.co/jb9w4CFTkC