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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Women bishops and Jeffrey John

While the leaders of my church tell us that a woman attempting to be ordained a priest is anathema, in England the Anglican Archbishops of Canterbury and York have had defeated their amendment at the General Synod giving people with contempt for female bishops access to an alternative male bishop - Women bishop row compromise plan fails in synod vote ......

[...] The two most senior figures in the Church were urging synod members to support a last-ditch compromise deal aimed at avoiding a split over the introduction of women bishops.

They proposed that a female bishop would have full authority in her diocese but "in practice refrain from exercising" certain functions in a parish which objected to her.

A "complementary bishop" would have independent powers, and the powers of the two bishops would be "co-ordinate".

Some 216 members voted in favour of the archbishops' proposals, and 191 against. But the result in the House of Clergy was 90 against and 85 in favour, with five abstentions.

Under the rules, the proposals were lost as they failed to achieve a majority in each of the houses.

Impassioned speeches were made both in favour and against the proposals.

The concession would have strengthened the legal position of male bishops ministering in dioceses where parishes objected to women bishops.

But pro-women's ordination campaigners had claimed they could lead to a "two-track episcopacy".

The Venerable Christine Allsopp, Archdeacon of Northampton, told the synod she was "dismayed" by the compromise being put.

"We recognise their good intentions in trying to help us all to hold together but I do not believe that this is good news, I do not believe that this will deliver and it is certainly not good news for women clergy," she said.

The general synod also voted against an amendment that proposed three new dioceses to cater for objectors to women bishops.

Also proposed in the rejected amendment was the idea that male bishops appointed to minister in these dioceses would declare that they would not participate in the consecration of a woman bishop or priest.

Dr Williams is also under pressure after the Crown Nominations Commission blocked the appointment of the openly gay Dean of St Albans, the Very Rev Jeffrey John, as the new Bishop of Southwark.

Here's a short editorial on the subject at The Guardian with which I agree .....

The church should always put humanity before unity
The Observer, Sunday 11 July 2010

Sexual equality, rather than schism, should be the Archbishop of Canterbury's foremost concern

The task of preventing schism in the Anglican church has consumed Dr Rowan Williams's tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury. But the split he tried to prevent had, in a fundamental sense, already occurred.

The general synod has been wrangling over women bishops. Again. Their consecration was made technically possible in 2008, but traditionalists have lobbied ever since for a men-only track within the church hierarchy.

Dr Williams tried to broker a compromise, mindful that elements on his conservative flank were mulling an offer from Rome to take in schismatic Anglicans. That compromise has failed.

Meanwhile, away from the synod, the archbishop has become embroiled in a row about the prospect of a gay man presiding in the Southwark diocese. Canon Jeffrey John was under consideration for the high-profile south London bishopric until his name was leaked. His candidacy was then effectively derailed by conservative evangelicals. Dr Williams has too often submerged his own liberal inclinations in what he sees as a higher duty to preserve institutional unity. Now, surely, his priorities should change.

Most of Britain has accepted that women can assume positions of authority and that homosexuality is a quite ordinary part of human experience. The explicit discrimination practised by the church is unacceptable in most non-religious settings and would be illegal if expressed by any other employer. There are, meanwhile, ample theological grounds for accepting that women are not created subordinate to men and that homosexuality is not hateful in the eyes of God. Dr Williams was determined not to go down in history as the Archbishop who split the church. He could have been remembered by future generations as a religious leader who stood unequivocally on the right side of a moral argument about sexual equality. Regrettably, that opportunity seems now to have passed.


For those interested, I have a 2008 post about Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans, with one of his sermons here, and you can read more about what's up with him now in this Reuters story - Rejection of gay clergyman as bishop sends CoE into spin.


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