Sunday, July 6, 2008

Britain's "Female Bishop" Question

Hot on the heels of the appointment of Australia's first female bishops, Britain finds itself struggling with the question - to consecrate or not to consecrate.

The question is to be debated at the General Synod of the Church of England.

From: The Independent: "Deborah Orr: A man of God we should all be supporting":
"Controversy has been rumbling since the ordination of women was accepted by the Anglican Church in 1992. But major hostilities began in the US in 2003 with the consecration of the out-and-proud Episcopalian Gene Robinson as the Bishop of New Hampshire. Critical eyes turned next to Canada, when one diocese authorised a gay blessing service. Last month, London was the focus of the wrath of traditionalists, when the flamboyant wedding-style blessing of two gay priests was criticised by the Bishop of London, the Right Rev Richard Chartres, as beyond the narrow remit that the Church of England permits for such ceremonies.

Such is the distaste for the goings-on in the US, Canada, and Britain that 300 bishops decided to boycott the Lambeth Conference, the once-a-decade meeting of the Anglican Church worldwide which takes place next week in Canterbury. Styling themselves as the Global Anglican Future Conference, the group of evangelicals held an alternative meeting in Jerusalem last week. They decided to reject links with Britain, the US and Canada, and to form a breakaway Church, the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, which would in effect become some kind of global anti-homosexual Protestant sect.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is naturally against such a move. As the leader of the Anglican Church worldwide, he condemns the group as lacking "legitimacy, authority and integrity". He stands, in effect, against the establishment of a church of homophobic Anglicans, although such is the sensitivity of the issue that he is quite unable to express his worries in such strident terms. Even the words he has so far chosen are considered, for him, to be unusually direct and uncompromising.

More than 1,300 clergy have written to Rowan Williams and to the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, threatening to defect to the Catholic Church, which still does not allow the ordination of women or gays, if two votes at the General Synod this weekend result in the ordination of female bishops."

From: This Is London: 1300 Clergy Threaten To Defect In the Women's Bishop Row:
"More than 1,300 clergy have written to the Archbishop of Canterbury saying they will defect from the Church of England if women are consecrated as bishops. Members of the group, which includes 11 serving bishops, say they will take decisive action if two votes are passed this weekend to allow female bishops. At the same time 1,276 women clergy, 1,012 male clergy and 1,916 lay church members who support women bishops signed a statement objecting to the prospect of ' discriminatory' legislation to safeguard opponents."

You can read more on this:
Church Leaders Fear Summer Strife .. - by Riazatt Butt in The Guardian - 17th June 2008
"A motion from the house of bishops suggests a code of practice, which would mean rescinding the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993. Annulling this act, which promised provision for those opposed to women priests, is seen by some as a move that could split the church. There will be special arrangements for those unable, as a matter of conviction, to receive the ministry of women as bishops or priests, but opponents fear they will not be enough. The first female clergy were ordained in 1994 and the historic event led to £27.4m in compensation being paid out to clergy who left as a result. Out of 512 who left, 72 returned. There are no proposals for similar financial arrangements in the future."

Church faithful may block move for female bishops .... - by Ruth Gledhill, Times Online:
"Sources at the General Synod, which began meeting in York last night to discuss the ordination of women bishops, predicted that many lay members would try to scupper the move in an attempt to preserve the unity of the Church. The 207 lay members of the synod have traditionally been the most conservative house of all. The 205 clergy are less conservative than the laity, but more so than the bishops, who are dominated by the Church’s liberal wing. The debate on women bishops, which takes place this morning, with the vote on Monday, threatens to divide the Church more deeply than the ordination of women priests or the conflict over homosexuality."

Church in the lurch ..... - The Independent:
"Some 1,333 vicars and other clerics have written to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York threatening to leave the church if its General Synod presses ahead this weekend with the idea of women bishops. Ho-hum, says the rest of society, for whom gender and sexuality equality has become an unquestioning desideratum, if not an always practised norm, over the past decades. For those with a secularist world view such debates have become a yawning irrelevance.

It would be easy to dismiss all this internal bickering in a club with a declining membership. But there are 77 million Anglicans across the globe, a number which, in contrast to steadily falling numbers of churchgoers in the UK, is elsewhere growing rapidly. It has an important role in a world gripped by violent religious fundamentalism in which good religion is a far more effective tool to combat bad religion than a disdainful or dismissive secularism."

Clergy threaten to leave Church - Turkish Press:
"Citing a copy of the letter that it had seen, the newspaper reported that the signatories, 60 percent of whom are serving clergy, including 11 bishops, will only accept the plans if there are areas where worship is led exclusively by males. On Monday, more than 4,000 Anglicans, including 1,276 women clergy and 1,012 male clergy, gave their support to the proposals for women bishops without special legislation to protect opponents of the move."

Anglican defection threat ... - by Ruth Gledhill, The Australian:
"The church's moderate centre is being pressured as never before by evangelicals opposed to gays and by traditionalists opposed to women's ordination. The crisis is the most serious since the Reformation devastated the Roman Catholic Church in England in the 16thcentury.

The General Synod, the church's governing body, meets on Friday in York, where clergy will decide whether legislation to consecrate women should be introduced, and whether it should have legal safeguards for traditionalists or a simple voluntary code to protect them. The signatories to the letter - who represent 10 per cent of practising clergy and hundreds of recently retired priests still active in the church - will accept women bishops only if they have a legal right to separate havens within the church. "

Can the AB of Canterbury prevent a schism - Belfast Telegraph:
"But the debate between the religion of the present and the past is not couched in such terms. Its language is that of theology and social justice. "The argument for women bishops," says Christina Rees, of Women and the Church, who is a member of the Synod meeting in York today, "is simply that God created men and women equal". Equal but different, says Rod Thomas, of the conservative evangelical group, Reform."

Three options are before the meeting. The one endorsed by the House of Bishops, which its critics describe as a "like it or lump it" option, proposes the change be introduced with a code of conduct on how to accommodate the conservative dissenters. It would abolish the practice of "flying bishops" introduced when women were first ordained in 1994 to minister to opponents of women priests. The other clear proposal is for "non-geographical" dioceses to minister to such priests and parishes. Opponents say they would be a church within a church."

500 clergy set to desert Church .... - by Ruth Gledhill, Times Online:
"Bishops voted narrowly to approve the consecration of women, without enshrining the legal safeguards sought by traditionalists. Instead, dioceses that appoint a woman bishop will merely be asked to sign a voluntary code of practice to ensure that Anglo-Catholics who oppose the move are not discriminated against or forced to act against their conscience. The Times has learnt that some traditionalists are seeking legal advice on whether it will be possible to sue the Church for constructive dismissal under employment law, should the synod vote in favour of the plans. They are angry that they were promised safeguards when the synod voted to ordain women priests in 1992 and believe that they have been betrayed."

Church of England clergy plan mass exit .... - by Ruth Gledhill, Times Online:
"More than 1,300 clergy, including 11 serving bishops, have written to the archbishops of Canterbury and York to say that they will defect from the Church of England if women are consecrated bishops. As the wider Anglican Communion fragments over homosexuality, England’s established Church is moving towards its own crisis with a crucial vote on women bishops this weekend. "

The crisis developing within the English Church bears watching ....

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