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Sunday, 11 July 2010

Lots of reasons to vote against the Archbishops amendment

So the Archbishops, without speaking to any other group, just days before Synod, come up with a new amendment to the Women Bishops legislation.

Most Synod members I was in touch with before gathering in York, were variously bemused, confused, annoyed or just downright livid. Why? Two main reasons. Firstly, it rather runs rough-shod over the work of the Steering Committee, who had taken months reviewing every-which option, and then it did something different. Secondly, and more importantly for me personally, it seemed to 'deliver' to nobody.

(photo: JoanaHard)

The archbishops' amendment firstly seemed to be re-introducing at least a degree of transference of responsibility and/or authority, in having 'co-ordinaries'. This must in some ways be perceived as taking away from the authority of potential women bishops in the future.

This adjustment was introduced - presumably - for the benefit of the traditionalist catholic members of the church. However, this is precisely the group that would least accept the diminution of any bishop's authority, responsibility, or jurisdiction. So it doesn't seem to suit either of the key parties it seeks to support, so appears completely unfit for purpose.

As a member of the synod who has been in favour of ordaining women to the episcopate, and voted for that; but (and not only because I am from the diocese of Chichester) I have also tried to take particular care to support those who find the ministry of women in the episcopate hard/impossible to accept.

In the run-up to synod, most of my reading and conversing led me to think that, despite it's significant sponsors, I was going to vote against the archbishops' amendment.

However, a number of things made me start to change my mind. I was aware that though this amendment didn't satisfy everybody; actually neither did any of the other amendments either, nor the measure itself; and synod needed al least something workable. The archbishops were giving an opportunity for a way forward that perhaps tried to inflict the least pain possible if people rallied around it.

Reports suggesting that the CofE was creating yet another fudge portrayed the whole debate in a more negative way than struck me as the reality. Mark Beach's blog also perceived this not very clean solution as being a rather more Anglican way of doing things. So here it is. Flawed, incomplete, compromised. But perhaps also gracious, enabling, and hopeful.

I had earlier spoken with a bishop for whom nothing less than separate dioceses would do (the first option that was rejected in debate) - but later I found that he was prepared to shift significant ground, and re-consider the archbishops' amendment as maybe a workable solution. He had been prepared for the sake of the Gospel and the church to move to a much more central position. Another bishop, who we have heard lobbying at other times for the simple 'single-clause measure', also spoke privately and and in debate about this perhaps being a real way forward. Here possibly was a solution that was both Catholic and Reformed - rather like, well, the Church of England.

The voting (now widely reported elsewhere: For: B25/C85/L106; Against: B15/C90/L86; Abs: B0/C5/L4; amendment passed in house of bishops and laity, but lost in the house of clergy, so lost overall) actually recorded an overall total number of votes in favour - but being recorded by houses, was lost - just like a crucial vote in 2008. And no house had a 2/3 majority, which is what will be required in a final vote.

I didn't like the way that this proposal still hints at women bishops having to be prepared to share some of their authority - but actually, in a diocese like mine, where none of the bishops will personally ordain women to the priesthood, under this proposal such a non-ordaining bishop would also have to share some of their authority.

That's why, against my original intention, and weighing all the reasons why I should have voted against the amendment, I actually voted for it, and am pleased to let the record show it. It is part of being a loyal Anglican; not un-thinking, kowtowing, or in blind obeisance; but for the sake of God's kingdom and it's traditional catholic, conservative evangelical and women episcopal members.

Monday's continuation of this debate will have more to tell us - this story is not yet finished...

Alastair, Chichester 101 (slightly apologising for a more personal and opinionated submission than I usually seek to post)


Anonymous said...

And, of course, you forgot to consider any arguments about how the C of E looks utterly ridiculous to the population it seeks to serve and arguments about womens' equality. Your reasoning is entirely inward, church-based. Nothing about the world beyond the church is apparent. Thank goodness the amendment was rejected.

Alastair Cutting said...

Thanks, Anonymous, but I think Rev Debbie Flack's speech in Synod on Monday, speaking passionately against some of the legislation, but graciously being prepared to vote for it, makes the point more eloquently than I was able.
Most of my ministry is work beyond the church; but this is Synod trying to get theology & practise right; that was what this post was about.