From Bishop Marc of California:
From Bishop Marc of California:
A passionate letter to the Archbishops
Originally posted on Phil's Boring Blog:
Greetings in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, your Lord and mine in our common journey of faith: to him be the glory for ever and ever!
I am writing this letter hesitantly because, as a member of a clergy household myself, I am aware of the immense pressure that you live under and of the immense burden of responsibility that you shoulder as the Lords Spiritual in our land: may the Lord give each and every one of you the courage, grace, strength and wisdom you need as you carry out your duties in his service.
First of all, I would like to thank you for all the time and effort that you put into so many different and often conflicting areas of life, especially on matters of injustice here in the UK and elsewhere in the world. Thank you, in particular, to those who…
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This article needs to be heard.
Originally posted on Sacred Tension:
What made the breakdown so devastating was that I didn’t see it coming at all. It had been a fairly good week, and I, for the most part, was feeling perfectly happy and content.
And then I made a mistake: I read theology. I read Wesley Hill’s response to James Brownson’s book Bible, Gender, Sexuality, and it felt like the ground vanished beneath me and I went into a terrifying free fall. (I tend to have a bad track record with Wesley Hill’s work. Every time I try to read something of his, I usually end up sobbing in a corner somewhere, not able to breathe.)
Old feelings that I used to struggle with on a daily basis suddenly materialized inside of me – feelings of debilitating unworthiness, fear, shame and anger…
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It’s Poverty and Homelessness Action Week. Follow the week with their online prayer calendar http://www.actionweek.org.uk/html/calendar/day2.html
This slight book is a personal reflection on the debate in the Church of England over the ordination of women to the priesthood, and more recently as bishops.
It is bang up to date: it was finished in December 2012, just a month after the vote by the House of Laity in General Synod which brought the current plans to admit women as bishops to a juddering halt.
You won’t find a detailed explanation of the objections to the ordination of women in this book. It doesn’t set out to re-examine and answer the main objections from the ‘Catholic’ wing (that the priest is an ikon of Christ, and a woman cannot be such an ikon because she is not male like Christ) or the ‘evangelical’ wing (that the Bible declares that in the Church and the home the male must be the ‘head’ of the female, so no female can exercise authority over the male).
In the first part, Maggi Dawn describes the way that the Church of England arrived at the impasse of the November 2012 vote, and suggests a way out, using the same process of ‘reception’ that was advocated in 1992, when women were admitted to the priesthood. In the second, she shares some reflections on the theology of waiting, including asking why there is a cultural expectation that women will ‘wait politely’, and questioning whether doing so can be, in effect, colluding with injustice.
She ends the second section by speaking about the ‘silent exodus’ of talented women ministers who are no longer prepared to continue to work in a church that excludes or devalues women. In the third section, she describes her own experience of feeling called to ordination, theological college and working as a deacon and priest, which led her to join this ‘exodus’. So much of this is painfully familiar to any woman, not just the ordained, who ministers in the Church of England.
If you don’t believe that women can be ordained, or exercise leadership in the church, there is no point in you reading this book, since you are unlikely to be convinced by Maggi Dawn’s gentle arguments. If you do believe women are called to be priests and bishops, then read it; it will annoy you, frustrate you, and inform you about the true cost of the interminable delays that women called to ordained ministry have had to suffer over the last 30 years since the Church of England decided “there were no fundamental theological objections to the ordination of women”.
Read it particularly if you are among those many people in the Church of England who feel that if only further steps are taken to accommodate those people who object to women’s ordination, the Church of England will be able to sail on happily into the future, even if, as one of Maggi Dawn’s contacts remarked, it is “like a world-class ocean liner powered by the engine of a lawn-mower”. I believe that Maggi Dawn’s passionate writing should convince you that to delay further, and to undermine the authority of female bishops in this way, is to incur too great a cost .Like the Wideness of the Sea: Women Bishops and the Church of England
I spent most of Tuesday listening to the live audio feed and following the Twitterfall of the General Synod debate on the Ordination of Women to the Episcopate Measure. When the result of the vote was announced I was bitterly disappointed. The C of E decided in 1975 that there were no fundamental theological objections to the ordination of women to the priesthood. I expected that to be properly affirmed on Tuesday, and full equality of women and men in ministry to be achieved, but it was not to be.
Much has been written about the vote, which affirmed the wish of the vast majority of both bishops, clergy and laity for female bishops, but which was lost by the failure to reach the required two-thirds majority in the House of Laity. I just want to make two comments on the debate.
I was disturbed at how inward-looking the contributors to the debate were. It was all about the Church of England, as if we were not part of the Anglican Communion and Churches Together in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Ecumenical relations were mentioned by some speakers, but with one exception that I heard, only with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches. These speakers were concerned that the ordination of women as bishops would place further barriers to unity with these churches.
However, the prospect of unity with these churches is light years away! They don’t recognise the orders of our male priests and bishops as valid; the Roman Catholics don’t even officially believe we are a proper church. To ask the Church of England to delay making a change in its orders because it might obstruct unity with these churches is living in cloud cuckoo land!
I was amazed that no-one mentioned the many churches with whom the Church of England does have close links, which already have women in the episcopate or equivalent leadership roles. Bishop Nick Baines hinted at this, but by the time he spoke, speeches were limited to one minute, and there was not enough time for him to elaborate, so the point was not strongly made.There are the many churches in the Anglican Communion, in the USA, Canada, New Zealand for example; there are the Lutheran and Evangelical churches in Scandinavia, Germany and France to whom we are linked through the Poorvoo and Meissen Agreements and Reuilly declaration; and there is the Methodist Church, with whom we have a Covenant. These agreements pledge us to welcome clergy of each other’s churches to share ministry, worship and pastoral care. The Anglican/Methodist Covenant pledges us to work for full visible unity. How can we do that when we can’t acknowledge their women in authority as bishops?
More worrying than the lack of attention to real ecumenical considerations was the failure to address the theological issues behind the vote, particularly the Biblical and ecclesialogical ones.
No-one challenged the repeated assertions that ‘male headship’ was Biblical. John Walker has written at length on why this interpretation doesn’t stand up.
What particularly struck me during the debate was the way those who could not accept female bishops were demanding oversight by ‘a bishop who thinks like us’. This seems to me to be a distortion of the role of a bishop. Bishops are called to be signs of unity: the introduction to the Ordination and Consecration of Bishops says “they are to gather God’s people and celebrate with them the sacraments of the new covenant. Thus formed into a single communion of faith and love, the Church in each place and time is united with the Church in every place and time.”
I know that our present bishops come from different traditions in the church; but when I have watched them in the Cathedral or in the parish church, I have never been able to tell, from the way that they exercise their office, which tradition they come. Good bishops are able to become all things to all people, and to rise above the relatively unimportant differences of tradition and churchmanship.
It is alien to Anglican ecclesiology for a bishop to say he won’t minister to a particular parish because their theological tradition differs from his; and no parish is able to reject the authority of the diocesan bishop over them.
The Act of Synod after the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood in 1992 opened the door to this fundamental change in the understanding of episcopacy by allowing parishes to petition for alternative episcopal oversight; but they had to ask their diocesan bishop to nominate someone, they couldn’t pick and choose. The demand to have a bishop of their own theological persuasion is simply one step further to schism. If they don’t accept the authority of their bishop, if they will only obey a bishop who shares their theological approach, how can they be said to be in communion with the rest of the church?
What next? Obviously when the church comes to debate the question of whether gays may be bishops, people who object will feel entitled to bishops who object. Will we than have parishes who believe in Creationism asking for bishops who believe the same; and those who don’t refusing to accept the authority of bishops who do? This can only lead to further fragmentation.
Sarah Coakley has written that “we cannot compromise on the historic theology of the bishop as locus of unity”.
I am coming round to the opinion that, in spite of the pain and hurt that the vote on Tuesday caused to women in the church, both ordained and lay, and the men who support them, it may well have been a good thing, since it gives the Church of England the chance to think again, and to bring in a measure which does not redefine the role of a bishop in a way that can only lead to more and more division and fragmentation in the church.