Welsh archdeacon seeks to end conscience provision for traditionalists

01 May 2019

diocese of llandaff

The Archdeacon of Llandaff, the Ven. Peggy Jackson

The Archdeacon of Llandaff, the Ven. Peggy Jackson

MOVES to bar traditionalists from being ordained in the Church in Wales have been branded “illiberal” and likely to drive them out of the Church.

The Archdeacon of Llandaff, the Ven. Peggy Jackson, has tabled a private member’s motion at this week’s Governing Body (GB) which calls on the bishops of the Church to refuse to ordain anyone who does not accept the “sacramental ministry of women” as priests or bishops.

The motion, which will be debated on Thursday at the GB meeting in Cardiff, seeks to remove conscience provisions in the 2014 Code of Practice — introduced when the change to canon law permitting women bishops was carried — which ensure that traditionalists who are opposed to women’s ordination can themselves still become priests and bishops.

But the Archdeacon of Cardigan, in St Davids diocese, the Ven. Dr William Strange, who is a leading figure in the new conservative movement Anglican Essentials Wales (News, 18 January), decried Archdeacon Jackson’s motion.

“I am concerned about it,” he said on Monday. “The implication is that a Church which prides itself on being inclusive is making itself more exclusive. It becomes more illiberal in a strange way.”

When asked whether some of his friends and colleagues might choose to leave the Church should the motion be carried, Dr Strange said that there was a “distinct possibility” of that.

Dr Strange is to retire at the end of May and be succeeded by Canon Eileen Davies.

In a background paper, Archdeacon Jackson argued that, while it was right to allow Welsh traditionalists already ordained when the law changed in 2013 some leeway, anyone who had subsequently sought ordination in the Church in Wales must accept that the Church was fully behind women as both priests and bishops.

“The provisions were never intended to maintain within the Church in Wales a parallel, or alternative, doctrinal tradition to that which had been decided by Governing Body,” she wrote.

“Anyone presenting themselves for ordination since 2013 must be aware of this, and therefore cannot now, in good faith, seek to be excused by conscience, from the obligations within the Church in Wales, which are laid upon every other cleric at ordination.”

But this has been strongly resisted by traditionalist groupings, including the Anglo-Catholic Credo Cymru. In a statement, it said that it was “extremely concerned” at Archdeacon Jackson’s “deeply divisive and hurtful” motion.

“This motion seeks to persuade the Bench of Bishops to remove a fundamental part of the Code of Practice that they created less than five years ago in order to maintain the ‘honoured place’ promised to fellow Anglicans in this Province.

“Credo Cymru calls on the bishops of the Church in Wales to resist this flagrant attempt to undermine their Code of Practice and the promises made by them at its inception, so that traditionalist Anglicans will not be further alienated from the Church of their baptism.”

The second part of Archdeacon Jackson’s motion also calls on the bishops to refuse to conduct separate ordination services for traditionalist candidates.

Dr Strange said that, while it was not easy to accommodate within the Church those who had objections to women’s ordination, “important things often aren’t easy.” Traditionalists had not changed their position: the Church had changed around them; and so it was incumbent on the majority to make charitable allowances for the minority, he said.

No longer a member of the GB, Dr Strange said that he was unsure whether the motion would be carried at this week’s meeting, but predicted that, if it was, it would cause serious problems.

Evangelicals who could live with women as priests and bishops would no longer be able to trust in any conscience provision carved out for them over the question of same-sex relationships, he said.

The Bench of Bishops received support at the last GB meeting to make some kind of provision for gay couples, having decided that the current settlement, which bars same-sex marriages and the blessing of same-sex unions in church, was no longer tenable (News, 21 September).

“[Traditionalists would] not be able to rely on decisions made by GB being honoured in the future,” Dr Strange said. “‘If the Church can do one good thing, it would be to show society how we can maintain quite painful diversity within charitable bounds.”

A spokeswoman for the Church in Wales said that the Bishops had no comment on the substance of Archdeacon Jackson’s motion.

“The Bishops will listen carefully to what is said during the debate, and will take account of what will be an indicative rather than a binding vote,” she said.

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