Sunday 25 May 2008

800 From 9000? What of the 700?

The Church of England has, roughly speaking, about 9000 clergy still, with vacancies arising not being filled and in fact much left hanging and merging. Out of this, the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, one of those bishops who has grown wings, is quoted as saying that 800 could leave the Church of England if women are made bishops and there is no proper provision made for them.

According to the Daily Telegraph, around fifty Anglican bishops huddled at Market Bosworth (sounds like they're having a civil war - oops, they are, sort of) decided by small majority not to make a structural provision for clergy dissenters from women bishops. They would also end current arrangements that allow parishes to reject having women clergy.

Structural arrangements for male only bishops would involve two dioceses in Canterbury and one in York, sort of escape arrangements on a non-geographical basis. So an actual geographical diocese might end up like one of those holey (not holy) cheeses where the holes are filled by the male only diocese.

The non-geographical diocese would be pure, free of the pollutant of women in clergy dress, and free of women saying eucharistic prayers, free of women holding hands above the heads of other men and women as they consecrate and priest others.

Except they would not be, because they would all rise up the chain to the Archbishops of York and Canterbury both of whom will have consecrated women - and indeed could be women.

Once again the Archbishop of Canterbury has backed the conserving horse. According to the same report, he argued for proper provision for these men on the principle of promises made and keeping people in.

Bishop Pete Broadbent put on Fulcrum his view that:

My skin feeling is that Synod will coalesce around the mandatory transfer option [option 4] (which is not a million miles from TEA). But we will have to debate and vote down the simple statutory options favoured by WATCH, and the alternative structural provisions favoured by FiF.

Later on, elsewhere (the debates got a bit cross-threaded) he wrote:

Whether you like it or not, we made commitments to those opposed back in 1993. Any provision has to take account of those commitments. I want to see women bishops - preferably tomorrow! - but I'm not prepared, unlike the liberals, to sell the conservative catholics and evangelicals down the river. So there's a straightforward choice. Go with legislation that will make provision for them, or exclude them. Now, if the women are saying that they won't countenance such legislation, so be it. Synod needs a majority in all three houses. If the House of Bishops bring legislation with arrangements for transfer to the Synod, it may well be that it will be voted down in the House of Clergy. If arrangements with a code of practice alone are put forward, that won't carry the Synod either. And only a minority want a separate province or diocese. So that won't get through either.


So - back to the issue at hand. If neither the women nor the ultra conservatives will accept a compromise, we shall have to find another way through.

At this point, not unlike many people, when reading the Manchester Report I get terribly confused. There is a variation four that is within existing structures. Apparently legislation would transfer from the diocesan bishop to a complementary bishop oversight of parishes and priests wanting purity from women bishops, male priests ordained by women bishops, or male bishops who ordain women to the priesthood and episcopate. Those rights that parishes have already to decline the ministry of women priests would continue. I think this is what Pete Broadbent referred to, but this report is an exercise in getting lost in detail.

So 800 may leave. I don't believe it. Nevertheless 700 women clergy - half of them - did petition for a straight adoption of bishops male and female.

Promises? How long for: for this generation, forever? A House of Commons vote cannot bind a future House of Commons vote. So it is with a Synod. Perhaps there ought to be residual arrangements for some to continue on - but no one new, no one else.

Separate dioceses would not work: and if they were ever instituted they would be bolt-holes for all sorts of malcontents and GAFCON-like people. These do seem to be dead in the water, however.

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