Out of the frying pan…

It seems from this story that the Church of England has rejected the proposal for Jeffrey John to become bishop of Southwark, but they are still locked in a quandry over how to provide for those members of the Church who are opposed to the implementation of the decision to ordain women bishops. The story continues…

Update: William has provided me with two more links on this subject that readers might like to explore:


The first is from an Ango-Catholic point of view, and the second from an Evangelical point of view.

The first also has a link to an article by Damien Thompson, in which he says:

Tonight the Church of England finally acknowledged something that has been obvious since 1992, when it decided to ordain women priests: that it remains, despite the Oxford Movement, and as John Henry Newman came to believe very firmly, a Protestant Church.

This is a point which is made very well in an article by Dairmaid MacCulloch which William also sent me (not available online) in which he argues that the early Anglican Church was DEFINITLY protestant, a fact which many in the Anglican Church have never comfortably acknowledged.

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9 Responses to Out of the frying pan…

  1. Joshua says:

    I must admit, I agree with those who are adamant that no provision be made – just as, in the Lutheran Church of Sweden, no man can be ordained a pastor if he disagree with the ordination of women. After all, if it is the official doctrine of a denomination that women can be ordained, those who refuse them are cutting themselves off from the communion of that body, disbelieving its tenets and ostentatiously refusing the ministrations of such clergywomen.

    The C. of E. was in a period of “reception” of the doctrine that it now holds, according to which women may be ordained, from the time when ordination to the Anglican priesthood was opened to them (and arguably from when the diaconate was opened to them, not just a separate stream for deaconesses) until now, or very soon, when women are made Anglican bishops. That period of reception must now end with the C. of E.’s recognition of women as susceptible of all grades of the threefold ministry, as decided by its Synod (whose decisions are but rubberstamped by Parliament these days: it isn’t 1928 any more).

    The Apostolic Succession is at issue: those who hold that women cannot be ordained must realize that, if so, whatever of previous claims to the validity of Anglican Orders, from now on the chain will be more and more broken, and finally severed, once the last male bishop ordained by males themselves male-ordained dies.

    After all, how can it make sense to belong to a body, and yet reject as false and invalid the ministry of her bishops on the grounds of their gender? A bishop is the one who rules each diocese; if -as will soon be the case in the C. of E. – the bishop be a woman, and if her ministrations be rejected by a minority while the majority accept her, the only logical recourse for those who refuse her is schism.

    While as a Catholic I do not believe women can be ordained, if I were Anglican, I would either have to change that belief in order to remain within that communion in good conscience, or I would have perforce to leave. I cannot see how there can be a middle way.

    True, there have been suggestions of continuing with the “flying bishops” who look after those who reject the ministry of women priests, even of establishing a Third Province for such (a fond dream, alas); but how can one speak of the Anglican Communion when the Episcopalians in the U.S. have had female bishops for a good while now, and yet other branches of that Communion do not accept such, nay, do not accept clergywomen at all? It makes no sense.

    If I were an Anglican holding firm against W.O., if I went to the U.S. on holiday I would need to check who ordained the clergy whose parishes I went to for divine service – since if any had a woman in their “genealogy” of ordination, I would perforce reject their ministrations as invalid.

    Either women cannot be ordained, or they can; and seeing as the validity of the sacraments is of the highest importance, and these sacraments are at the service of communion in the broadest sense, then those who will not accept the sacraments ministered by women cannot remain in communion with those who do.

    If Fr Samantha looks after St Boltoph’s-in-the-Mire, I can avoid her by worshipping at St Chad’s-under-the-Bridge; but once she is advanced to be the Bishop of Sillyham, no more trips to the Cathedral of St Ethelbert for Evensong! Furthermore, she from then on is in law my Ordinary, doing all the things bishops do, such as moving clergy about, writing pastorals, going on visitation, confirming children, and ordaining new clergy for the diocese – yet I can see these acts only as a sham!

    What will happen to St Chad’s parish? Will Fr Humphrey Stockingham, our very High priest, now pause in the Roman Canon (we’re strictly B.C.P., “except for the Secret and the Canon and the Dominus vobiscum”), since he could hardly say “Benedict our Pope” (we do that at St Chad’s, so as to make a point, not that we’d ever actually swim the Tiber, R.C.’s are such asinine philistines and so mean about divorce, remarriage, and all the rest) “and Samantha our bishop”?

    What happens when Fr H. retires (he’s 93 and suffers recurrent bouts of Roman fever), and Bp Samantha exercises her undoubted right of presentment to the benefice: for it is odds on that our new priest would be a very nice fellow, young Fr Piers d Fry, who happens to be her (suitably ritualistic) nephew, just ordained – by her?

    Even if the Archbishops’ scheme had gone through, Anglo-Catholics said it wasn’t enough, and either the continuance of the Flying Bishops or the fabled Third Province was needed. How could it have worked, anyway, for the local Diocesan to delegate her rights to visit, confirm and so forth to a male bishop, just to salve a few consciences? Hardly pleasant for her, and – more importantly – if, as the minority would still insist, she were no real bishop at all, how could she be suffered to act as if she were one, ruling the diocese and so forth?

    How could it be tolerated that a small minority continue to insist on male-only ministry, ostentatiously getting their seminarians ordained only by the few remaining bishops who haven’t ordained women? How could their men continue to teach and preach that women cannot be priests let alone bishops, and that the pretended acts of the latter, even more so than those of the former, are valueless and ought not to be recognized?

    • Peregrinus says:

      Hi Joshua

      I think you neatly outline some of the conceptual and practical difficulties facing the Church of England if it ordains women bishops while still seeking to accommodate those who reject the ordination of women bishops. You reckon, though, without the enormous force of the fortieth of the XXXIX Articles, which is that A Middle Way Is Always Possible, And Need Not Be Logical.

      You assume, though, that the only reason for rejecting women’s ordination is that It Can’t Be Done. I don’t think this is necessarily the case. I think there are voices within the Cof E who say, in effect, that “we can’t do this unilaterally” (because of what it says about the claim to catholicity, about communion or putative communion with Roman and Orthodox churches, etc). And, of course, someone who opposes the Cof E doing this alone for these reasons doesn’t have to take a stance on whether it can be done at all. He might believe, and others might suspect that he believes, and he might even say that he believes, that it is ontologically impossible. But that’s not the point on which he makes his stand, or on which he appeals for the support of others. Instead he argues that this issue can only be addressed by the church catholic, so to speak, and that Anglicans ought not to move ahead of Rome and Constantinople in this matter.

      This may seems a rather fine distinction, given that not moving ahead of Rome and Constantinople looks a great deal like not moving at all. Nevertheless it doesn’t involve an assertion of the outright impossibility of the episcopal ordination of women.

      It may be that the measure proposed (and, just now, rejected by Synod) to accommodate opponents are not designed to meet the needs of the “impossibilists”, but rather of those in this group. It enables them – for a time at least – to avoid any action which irrevocably commits them to accepting ministry from, or depending on, a woman bishop, and at the same time to remain within the CofE, which presumably they want to do.

      But, I agree, it could work only for a time. Most likely it would wither on the vine in a (comparatively) short time as those who could benefit from it either reconsider their views in the light of experience and observation of Episcopal ministry by women, or accept the logic of their position and join either the Roman or Orthodox churches. It’s real function would be to give people a breathing space to reflect on how much, exactly, it meant to them to remain within the CofE.

      • Joshua says:


        “the enormous force of the fortieth of the XXXIX Articles, which is that A Middle Way Is Always Possible, And Need Not Be Logical.”

        Yes, this is Anglicanism – there is a sort of strange pride, traceable back I think to the Religio medici, in its very inconsistencies and woolly-headedness… rather like the pleasure found in England’s ancient and curious titles and strangenesses, titles such as Lord Privy Seal and whatnot.

        • Schütz says:

          The two of you are a barrel of laughs this morning…

          I loved Josh’s “hypothetical” about St Chads, and Perry’s 40th Article…

          But seriously, I am also of the opinion that having decided to go with women bishops, the CofE would not be doing traditionalists in their midsts any favours by providing a “less-warm-corner” of the frying pan in which to sit. It is time for those with scruples in the CofE to reject not just the first XXXIX articles, but the last one as well.

  2. An Liaig says:

    I remember seeing a documentary on the running of St Paul’s in London – many years ago now. In one program, the first woman priest was introduced into the chapter. Some of her own chapter ministers would not accept her ordination and she was faced with the horrible situation of alter ministers of her own chapter refusing to recieve communion from her. What happened to this poor woman was plain unjust. She was ordained by her church and appointed by her bishop. It seems to me that she had every right to expect the support of her fellow clergy. If they could not give it, then I think that they had no real choice but to seriously consider their positions. To stay in a church where you do not believe the leadership speaks with authentic authority is illogical. I believe that woman’s ordination is impossible but if I were an Anglican, I would be forced to either change my view – or leave. You believe what your church teaches or you do not, especially in such a core area.

    • Tony Bartel says:

      From the perspective of an outsider looking in, what you say makes good sense.

      However, from the perspective within the matter looks quite different.

      The ordination of women was not portrayed as a doctrinal process, but as a provisional practice offered to the whole Church in a process of reception (note the Gindrod and Eames Commisions Reports). Both those who accepted the provisional practice and those who opposed it were to be loyal Anglicans.

      And here is the kicker. The process of reception was not to be closed by the ordination of women to the episcopate, as might be logically supposed. It was to be closed by the acceptance of female ordination by the whole Church catholic East and West.

      Those clergymen who refused to receive the Sacrament from Canon Lucy Winkett were not being disloyal to the Anglican Church. They were simply refusing to receive a practice which they could not accept.

      A whole system of flying bishops etc was put in place to make the process of reception work. It worked too well as the number of parishes opting not to have female clergy continued to increase. Now that the time for paying compensation to those leaving has run out, the whole system may be safely dismantled. All that will be left is a Code of Practice advising diocesan bishops how to proceed.

      You may say, perhaps correctly, that the whole notion of reception was a sham and a con job.

      But there are many poor bastards who believed what they were told and who are now left in a difficult position.

      As the great Timo Orta says, “Even if you hit your own thumb with a hammer, it still hurts.”

  3. William Tighe says:

    I agree with the first paragraph of Joshua’s initial comment, which is true as a metter of both “theologic” and good sense — but the lies, the deceit, the broken promises that the Anglican (anod Lutheran) liberals, revisionists and their “running dogs” have made over the years, in Sweden in the 1950s and in England in the 90s (not to mention in Canada and the States in the 70s) really does impel me to hope that the WOB measure in England falls just short of the required two-thirds majority when it comes up for final passage in the General Synod sometime in 2012. To that end, and writing in a Machiavellian fashion, my hope is that the General Synod will not offer so much as a fragment of a withered fig leaf to the opponents, and thereby make it as difficult and painful as possible for them to assume the “ostrich position” so congenial to so many of them.

    I will not discuss the various parallels here, but in Sweden it was no less a person than the Minister of Religious Affairs himself that enunciated a “conscience clause” in 1958 — and down to the very late 1970s it was fairly generally adhered to, with the exception that the government went out of its way to try to block the selection of opponents of WO as bishops (in Sweden each diocese generated a list of three names of which ther gov’t had to choose one) by passing over opponents who made it onto the final list (in two cases, Visby in 1962 and Gothenburg in 1970, where all three men on the list were opposed, the gov’t chose the one they thought would be “weakest” in his opposition, in the latter case miscalculating spectacularly by choosing Bertil Gartner [1924-2009], the youngest candidate, who opposed itn spiritedly until his retirement in 1991). Then, in the late 70s, various Swedish Lutheran bishops began to balk at conducting separate ordination services for men opposed to WO (this was a big deal for them, because at the close of ordination services in all the Scandinavian Lutheran churches, those who have been rdained all shake hands with one another, “giving the right hand of fellowship” and thereby recognizing their common bond as pastors), which created a crisis. Very early in the 80s some interesting talks were held about how both sides couls coexist in the future, and the “liberals” were willing to be rather generous — but they expected opponents to admit that their basic problem with WO was “psychological” (ideas about women’s roles and adhesion to “St. Paul’s ideas” in that sphere) rather than strictly theological. But when the conservatives said plainly that they denied the validity of the ordination of women, and therefore insisted that it was a matter of theological truth and Scriptural prescriptions, the talks broke down in acrimony, and in 1982 the “conscience clause” was formally rescinded by the Swedish Church Assembly — although it was not until 1994 that that assembly passed measures prohibiting the ordination as pastors of men opposed to WO (only in 2000 was this extended to deacons, an “order” which had been revived in the Swedish Church in 1942) and their selection as bishops — and, ironically, it is only since the disestablishment of the Swedish Church in 2000 that these strictures have been relentlessly enforced.

    One might write parallel accounts of what has happened along those lines in the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church, or in the Church of Norway and the Church of Finland (in which latter body, which has just elected its first “woman bishop,” the process only got under weigh with the retirement of the last bishop opposed to WO in 2002; see the “dormant” blog:

    http://tentatioborealis.blogspot.com/ )

    but to what point? Nevertheless, I am “conflicted” between the desire to see the liberals frustrated, baffled and enraged by encountering defeat “at the final post,” and the knowledge (a) that they will keep coming back, like a bad odour or a metastatized cancer, until they get their way, and (b) that such “pointless victories” for the conservatives will confirm too many of them in their belief that there really is some worthwhile “Catholic essence” to contend for in their “merely Protestant” denominations.

  4. Tony Bartel says:

    While it is easy to find the flaws in Anglicanism, I would caution that this is not the moment for any kind of triumphalism, much less for any snide remarks.

    There are good people who will definitely be hurt by what has happened and will have a profound sense of grief. Some have already suffered much for their faith and will carry those scars with them for the rest of their lives, even if they should depart for a different place. Becoming Roman Catholic or Orthodox will not take the wounds away.

    The Anglo-Catholic movement was a remarkable attempt to return a Church to the apostolic faith. It taught many people, even those beyond the confines of the Anglican Church, to live the sacramental life, to offer the Mass as a sacrifice, to believe in apostolic order, to confess the faith of the Fathers, to pray for the faithful departed and to love our Lady and the saints.

    Pray for those who have difficult decisions to make, welcome them, encourage them. But please do not judge them or belittle them.

    • Peter Golding says:

      A well written piece Tony.
      Crossing the Tiber may not heal the wounds completely,but I am confident it will help.

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