Consecrating female bishops in the Church of England
2008-JUL: Developments in at the General Synod.
Catholic Church's response.
2008-JUL-07: Letter from over 1,300 male clergy to the archbishops:
LifeSiteNews reported that:
"More than 1,300 clergy, including 11 serving bishops, have
written to the archbishops of Canterbury and York saying they will leave the
Church of England if women are consecrated bishops. Three sitting diocesan
bishops have also written to the Archbishop of Canterbury supporting the threat
and two other bishops have said they are preparing to leave the Church."
"[Ruth] Gledhill [of the Times] quotes the Rev. Prebendary
David Houlding, a leading Anglo-Catholic, who said:
'It's getting worse - it's going downhill very badly. It's
quite clear there is a pincer movement and we are being squeezed out. We are
being pushed by a particular liberal agenda and we are going to have women
bishops at the exclusion of any other view'." 1
Allegations of secret negotiations with the Vatican:
LifeSiteNews reports that:
"The news that a group of 'senior' Anglican bishops are in
talks with Rome during the crisis came as a surprise to representatives of the
Catholic Church of England and Wales, attending the Synod as observers. Gledhill
reported that Monsignor Andrew Faley, ecumenical officer of the Catholic bishops
of England and Wales, had 'no information' that such talks had taken place. The
Telegraph reports that the Rowan Williams was also not told of the talks that
are reported to have been with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,
the Vatican's highest doctrinal authority after the Pope himself."
talks come with a backdrop of a difficult history. In 1992, when the Church of
England voted to ordain female clergy, a similar crisis ensued in which a large
number of Anglican ministers applied to Rome to create a provision to retain the
traditional Anglican style of worship but seek communion with the See of Rome.
At that time, under Pope John Paul II, some 'Anglican Use' parishes were
established in the US, but the episcopate of the Catholic Church of England and
Wales obstructed the solution. Hopes were dashed when the Catholic bishops of
England and Wales announced that converts would only be accepted individually,
not en masse, and there would be no provision made for the retention of 500
year-old Anglican liturgical traditions."
"It was noted that the heavily
liberalized Catholic leadership did not relish the thought of a massive influx
of doctrinally and liturgically traditional and highly educated clergy into
"But since the election of Pope Benedict XVI, who has made
unprecedented moves to reconcile traditionalists in the Catholic Church, and who
was strongly supportive of the Anglican traditionalists before his election,
hope has been revived that a path may be cleared." 1
2008-JUL-07: General Synod confirms female consecration in principle:
Those caucasians opposed to female consecration to the episcopate campaigned for special
arrangements so that they would not have to accept a woman as their bishop. They
offered two options:
- The creation of separate dioceses to be led only by male bishops, or
- Provision of "superbishops" (a.k.a. "complementary bishops" to
traditionalist parishes. These would be male bishops who could be asked to
come into a diocese that was led by a woman bishop and offer leadership to the
minority who cannot accept oversight by their own bishop. A parish would be
able to bypass their own bishop and ask for a superbishop. The latter would
take control of the spiritual and disciplinary leadership of the rebel
parishes. However, the diocesan bishops would continue to control parish
finances and Church schools. The superbishops would be selected from among
the ranks of Anglo-Catholic traditionalists. The superbishops would replace
the "flying bishops" who have been available since the CoE started ordaining
women priests; the flying bishops can be invited into a diocese which has
women priests to minister to parishes which do not recognize the legitimacy
of female ordination.
Some traditionalists reject the latter
compromise because the superbishops would still have to be supervised by
archbishops who would be seen as tainted because they had consecrated women
Muriel Porter, writing for the Australian Broadcasting Corp. was
unsympathetic to the attempt to derail gender equality in the episcopate. She
"... these suggestions were dismissed by the synod, which
instead has opted for pastoral provisions similar to those now available in
Australia where there are women bishops. These are low-key arrangements designed
to treat with respect those who oppose women in church leadership, without
undermining the authority of women bishops."
"The arrangements the
English opponents wanted would have been deeply humiliating to women, creating
in effect a second-class tier of bishops. In a modern pluralist society such as
England is in the 21st century, this would surely be intolerable."
anyone suggested that Anglican worshippers could be protected from any contact
with black bishops, for instance, both the vast majority of churchgoers and
wider society generally would be rightly alarmed and appalled. But the
proponents of discrimination against women seem to think they are immune to
criticism because of their outdated views about the Bible and church tradition." 4
Her article received 100 comments from readers by JUL-11; some were quite
The synod confirmed its mid-2006 synod decision to consecrate women as
bishops. The voting numbers were:
- Bishops: 28 for; 12 against; 1 abstention.
- Clergy: 124 for; 44 against; 4 abstentions.
- Laity: 111 for; 68 against; 2 abstention.
Draft legislation and a Code of Practice will be presented at the 2009-FEB
synod to implement the decision. 7 However, if the
level of support for women bishops remains constant, the legislation will fail.
The laity support was nine votes short of the two-thirds majority required to
pass legislation. 4 This should make for a lively
synod in February as supporters of women's restrictions battle with supporters
of women's equality. The nature of the CoE will hang in the balance.
2008-JUL-08: Response from the Vatican to the 2008 synod vote:
A letter from the Vatican issued on 2008-JUL-08 stated:
"We have regretfully learned of the Church of England vote to
pave the way for the introduction of legislation which will lead to the
ordaining of women to the Episcopacy."
"The Catholic position on the
issue was clearly expressed by Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II. Such a
decision signifies a breaking away from the apostolic tradition maintained by
all of the Churches since the first millennium, and therefore is a further
obstacle for the reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Church of
"This decision will have consequences on the future of
dialogue, which had up until now born fruit, as Cardinal Kasper had clearly
explained when he spoke on June 5 2006 to all of the bishops of the Church of
England at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury."
"The Cardinal has been invited once again to express the
Catholic position at the next Lambeth Conference at the end of July." 5
Their reference to "all of the Churches" having continuously discriminated
against women in the clergy until recently may be surprising to many readers, since all liberal
and most mainline Christian denominations have had female clergy for decades.
The letter is consistent with the document "Dominus
Iesus" that was ratified by Pope John Paul II in the year 2000. It
explains the Roman Catholic belief that all of the Christian denominations
except for the Church of Rome and the Eastern Orthodox churches have not
preserved the Apostolic succession. Thus, they are not "churches in the proper
sense." That belief was reinforced during 2007 by
Pope Benedict XVI in his document: "Responses to
Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church."
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Hilary White, "Anglicans to Catholics: Ready or Not, Here we Come.
Church of England General Synod to touch off an exodus by approving women
bishops," Life Site News, 2008-JUL-07, at: http://www.lifesitenews.com/
- Ruth Gledhill, "Church of England votes to ordain
women bishops," The Times, 2008-JUL-08, at: http://wwrn.org/
- "Church of England plans male 'superbishops' for rebel clergy who refuse
to be led by women," Daily Mail, 2008-JUL-06, at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/
- xMuriel Porter, "Accepting women bishops," Australian Broadcast Corp.,
2008-JUL-10, at: http://www.abc.net.au/
- "Statement from Vatican," Forward in Faith, 2008-JUL-08, at: http://www.forwardinfaith.com/
Copyright © 2006 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2014-JUL-18
Author: Bruce A. Robinson