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Consecrating female bishops in the Church of England

Steps taken during 2002

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This is a continuation from the previous essay

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Steps during the year 2002:

2002-MAR: Victoria Combe, religion correspondent for The Telegraph said:

"When women enter the episcopate, most traditionalists are expected to either leave the Church or form their own province within the Anglican Communion." 1

2002-JUL: An interim working party report on female bishops was discussed at the General Synod:

  • In his talk, the chairperson of the working party, Michael Nazir-Ali, said that it is beyond question that some of the leaders of the house churches in the New Testament, such as Chloe (1 Corinthians 1:11), Nympha (Colossians 4:15) and possibly Lydia (Acts 16:14), were women. The group has also been concentrating on other relevant verses in the Bible, such as 1 Corinthians 11-14 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15.
  • The Bishop of Europe, Dr Geoffrey Rowell, said that to admit women to the episcopate was "a Church-dividing issue" and would have to be firmly rooted in scripture and tradition. He said that he had been told by Roman Catholic Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger that consecration of women as bishops was a more serious step than ordaining women priests. (In 2005, Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI.) This is presumably because ordaining women as priests placed them on the same level as male priests. But consecrating female bishops would result in some of them supervising male priests.
  • April Alexander, of Southwark, asked: "How long can the Church maintain the position when it continues to proclaim the human rights of everyone but its own women clergy?" 2
  • Some attending the Synod were angry that the working party had taken almost a year to hold their first meeting, and had only been able to produce a ten-page progress report by their second anniversary. There were suggestions that the process is being deliberately slowed down in order to minimize threats to church unity. The working party expressed the hope that it would complete its work by 2005. 3
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2002-SEP: A conservative group, Forward in Faith, requested the creation of a "free province." This would be a separate province within the Anglican Communion to which Anglicans could belong if they cannot remain in a province where there is gender equality for twomen's consecration as bishops. The groups would also like the new province to receive a substantial share of the Church of England's property and investments. This would be a unique situation within the Anglican Communion: their own province and the Church of Englandwould function in an overlapping manner within the same geographical area of England. Director Stephen Parkinson, said,

"If they consecrate women as bishops, that's the end. If the Church fails to deliver the free province we want, then vast numbers of traditionalists will be freed to leave for Rome, the Orthodox Church, or some form of 'continuing Anglicanism'."

Forward in Faith represents about 1,000 Church of England clergy and perhaps 6,000 laity.  4

Another conservative group, "Cost of Conscience" commissioned a research organization "Christian Research" to conduct a poll among priests and laity concerning consecration of female bishops. They found:

  • About 50% of the clergy and 60% of the laity support female bishops.
  • 25% of the clergy and 17% of the laity believe that there "should not be any women bishops anywhere."
  • 5% of the clergy said that they would definitely leave the church if females are allowed to become bishops; 20% said that they might leave. 5

Meanwhile, Women in the Church -- a rival group promoting gender equality --  disagrees. Chairperson Christina Rees said:

"The overwhelming majority of people have welcomed and are accepting women's ministry. If people cannot accept the decisions of every decision-making body in the Church, then perhaps they are in the wrong Church."

2002-JUL: The topic was not mentioned in the minutes of the general synod. Presumably, future action will await the final report of the Working Party.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Victoria Combe, "Church prepares the way for women bishops," The Telegraph, 2002-MAR-20.
  2. Jonathan Petre, "Schism risk over women bishops," News.telegraph, 2002-JUN-07, at: http://www.money.telegraph.co.uk/
  3. "Women Bishops," AnglicansOnline, 2002-JUL-02, at: http://anglicansonline.org/
  4. "The Anglican debate on women bishops," Catholic Insight, 2002-SEP, at: http://catholicinsight.com/
  5. "Women 'Bishops' may further splinter Anglicans," The Apologist's Eye, 2002-FEB-09, at: http://www.catholic.com/

Copyright 2002 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2008-JUL-10
Author: Bruce A. Robinson

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