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Consecrating female bishops in the Church of England

2008-JUL: More responses to the Synod vote.
Further developments, 2009 to 2012.

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This is a continuation from the previous essay

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2008-JUL-09: Response to the 2008 synod vote from Forward in Faith:

Many traditionalists were distressed at the synod vote. John Fulham, chairman of Forward in Faith wrote on JUL-09:

"Many of you have phoned me in the last twenty four hours, angry or distressed.  Several have suggested that we should declare war on those who seek to destroy us.  Particularly, the suggestion has been made that we stop paying Diocesan Quota.  I am open on this matter but think that now is not quite yet the time for such drastic gestures, for whatever we do needs its timing to be agreed by us all so that we can act together. Be assured of my commitment to our common life and of my determination to continue to seek a common way forward in faith for all of us." 1

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2008-JUL: Meeting of women bishops:

Eighteen women bishops from other provinces in the Anglican Communion gathered near Oxford for a two-day meeting prior to attending the Lambeth Conference of Bishops that is held every ten years. Included were 11 bishops from the U.S., three from Canada, two from Australia, and one each from Cuba and New Zealand. 2

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2009: Vatican sets up "Ordinariate" groups:

This is a structure set up by the Vatican in 2009 that would allow Anglican laity and clergy to leave the Anglican Communion, form separate groups affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, while still following Anglican liturgy and other practices, A new liturgy was scheduled to be published by the Vatican for all Ordinariate groups, including the one in the UK.

Keith Newton, who heads up the UK Ordinariate, said:

"Every week somebody writes or e-mails asking how they can join the Ordinariate. They are often people I have never heard of before. ... For clergy it is a practical risk, meaning they abandon tied housing and a guaranteed stipend for a smaller income and uncertainty.” 3

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Further developments during 2009 & 2010:

  • 2009: The Synod debated the draft legislation and sent it on to a revision committee. By the end of that year, the revision committee had issued its interim statements.

  • 2010: The proposed legislation was published. It was debated by the Synod and left largely unamended. It was referred to the individual dioceses for debate and vote. 4

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2011-JUN-04: UK: More than 50 Church of England priests becoming Roman Catholic priests:

Protesting equality for women and LGBT persons in the Church of England, a group of seven Anglican priests decided to abandon the Anglican Communion. They were ordained as Roman Catholic clergy on 2011-JUN-04 by the Most Rev. Peter Smith, Roman Catholic  Archbishop of Southwark. Subsequent groups will be ordained on successive weeks. More than 900 laity have preceeded them and had already become Catholics.

The new Catholic priests will lead former Anglican laity to worship as a separate Ordinariate groups in the UK. 5

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The path forward:

If and when the consecration of women as bishops is eventually implemented, the relationship between the Methodists and Anglicans in England will probably become closer. However, an additional strain would appear in the relationship between the Anglican and Roman Catholic church. To the Roman Catholic Church, even the ordination of women as deacons is forbidden. It is a hot-button item. Debate and dialogue on these topics by clergy in that Church is suppressed.

After the Church of England first ordained women as priests in 1992, 720 priests found the situation so intolerable that they felt compelled to leave the denomination. About 400 priests joined the Roman Catholic Church even though many if not most were married. The exodus opened up hundreds of posts for female Anglican priests to fill.

There are no firm data about how many will leave when women are allowed to be consecrated as bishops. Estimates range from a very few to 1,000. Allowing female bishops would mean that some male priests would be under the authority of a woman. After 17 centuries of male superiority in the Church of England and its predicessor Christian groups, modern conservative male clergy would probably find this so unacceptable that they might abandon the church in droves.

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2012-MAY-21:Most dioceses approve proposed legislation:

Forty-two dioceses out of the Province's 44 dioceses had approved the legislation by a majority vote. Only the dioceses of Chichester and London voted against the legislation.

The Synod's House of Bishops debated the draft legislation, passed two amendments, and rejected two others. The bishops then voted in favor of the amended motion. 6

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2012-NOV-10: "Final" Synod vote fails:

Webmaster's rant: (Bias alert)

I try to remain objective when discussing religious developments on this web site. I try to explain all viewpoints fairly and with sensitivity. However, when I see pockets of discrimination still existing against half of the human race, I get really te'ed off. My personal point of view is that sexism is simply gender-based bigotry, and that sexism based on fundamental religious beliefs is still gender-based bigotry. So please excuse the following outburst:

King Henry VIII founded the Church of England in 1534 CE during the Renaissance. From then until 1992, women were totally excluded from the priesthood. As of 2012-NOV, women could be considered for ordination, but were still excluded from the episcopate, solely because of their gender. Their individual interests, ability, intelligence, knowledge, talent, achievements, personality, education, training, suitability, etc. did not matter. If they were female, they could never hope to be consecrated as a bishop simply because their DNA lacked a "Y" chromosome. The rest of English society had moved on and had largely eliminated sexism. The Church of England which is expected to act with the highest level of morality and ethics remains at the bottom of the cultural heap, continually dragging their feet by allowing gender-based bigotry to continue.

Stepping down from the soapbox:

Many, perhaps most, members of the Church of England expected that this Synod would correct almost six centuries of gender discrimination in the denomination to end. The entire process of discussing consecration of female bishops has taken 12 years. Over four years previously, the Synod of the Church of England had approved female bishops in principle. At this Synod meeting many Anglicans expected sexism to be ended by a vote.

Women as bishops is not really unique to England. Anglican provinces in Australia, Canada, Cuba, New Zealand and Southern Africa have already consecrated women bishops. Another dozen have approved them, but have not consecrated any women as of late 2012. 7

Rowan Williams, the current Archbishop of Canterbury, has been a strong supporter of the GS1708D legislation that would allow the consecration of women priests as bishops. Justin Welby, the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury, who is scheduled to replace Williams at the end of 2012, said that he was "deeply committed" to passage of the measure.

A major provision of the legislation involves parishes where the majority cannot accept the authority of a female bishop, either because of misogyny, strong sexist feelings against women in positions of authority, a desire to follow the biblical interpretations of traditionalist Anglicans, or simply a desire to follow the Church's centuries-long tradition of excluding women from positions of power. The legislation contains a compromise that would allow a parish to request that their female bishop delegate her authority to a stand-in bishop for those parishes in her diocese who could not accept her. This compromise is resisted by two groups within the church:

  • Many Anglo-Catholics and other traditionalists feel that the problem should be avoided by simply not consecrating any female priests as bishops.

  • Many liberals, female members and clergy, and civil libertarians feel that allowing a parish to import a "flying bishop" is insulting to all women.

Before the vote, during an interval of hymn singing and prayer, Rowan Williams noted:

"By the end of today, whether the world will look at the General Synod and the Church of England and say ' That looks like Jesus Christ' is a large prayer to ask. But it is the prayer we have to be asking because there's probably no other prayer worth praying'." 8

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This topic continues with more reactions to the Synod vote failure, etc. in the next essay

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Copyright 2008 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2014-JUL-18
Author: Bruce A. Robinson
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