Women bishops II
The year is 2060, Revd Joe Bloggs is about to take on a new posting in a conservative parish who do not generally approve of women in positions of leadership. All is going well for the preparations that summer and for his licencing, when a particularly keen churchwarden does some digging and finds that Joe Bloggs was ordained by Bishop John Smith. He digs further and finds that Bishop John Smith was ordained by Bishop John Doe. Oh my goodness, tumult of tumults… he knows full well who ordained John DoeÂ – it was the Church of England’s first ever woman bishop Jane Smith.
As far as the Churchwarden is concerned, Joe Bloggs ordination is invalid and his new appointment goes down the tubes… fast. As does the Church of England in general with this kind of lunacy around.
General Synod has now closed its July Group of Sessions and from my listening over the web and in conversation with colleagues, it seems to have been conducted in a very positive and I quote ‘not at all fractious’ manner. The second women bishops debate has come and gone as they tried to find the practical way forward to actually making all this happen.
While the road ahead remains unclear with much left to do, there was a crucial decision in this second debate in York that is worth noting. I have sliced the crucial bit from a much larger resolution:
“invite the Archbishopsâ€™ Council, in consultation with the Standing Committee of the House of Bishops and the Appointments Committee, to secure the early appointment of a legislative drafting group charged with … preparing a draft of possible additional legal provision consistent with Canon A4 to establish arrangements that would seek to maintain the highest possible degree of communion with those conscientiously unable to receive the ministry of women bishops;”
The crucial bit is an amendment which was carried to add the words ‘consistent with Canon A4’.Â For the uninitiated, Canon A4 says this:
“The Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests and Deacons, annexed to The Book of Common Prayer and commonly known as the Ordinal, is not repugnant to the Word of God; and those who are so made, ordained, or consecrated bishops, priests, or deacons, according to the said Ordinal, are lawfully made, ordained, or consecrated, and ought to be accounted, both by themselves and others, to be truly bishops, priests, or deacons.”
What it essentially says is that ANYONE ordained by the Church of England is to be regarded by everyone in that church as genuinely ordained.
Thankfully, with this amendment, it seems to me that the scenario of Joe Bloggs in 2060 can never occur. Any legislation that results from this process now has to recognise the validity of all priests’ orders.
It does also limit the options of those who wish to create some kind of get-out clause for the conscientious objectors. With the whole thing starting to tie up with canon law, they’d have to have some way of being able to amend canon law for themselves in a protected bubble and that almost certainly means a third province (or a totally separate church).