Wednesday 8 February 2012

The Plain Truth (100 words)

Read the comments and weep. Everybody outside the Bubble sees that this is about discrimination. The C of E as a discriminatory body is running hard over thin air, way off a cliff that used to be there. What yesterday's synod debate demonstrated clearly is that binloads of dense legal verbiage actually obstructs understanding and mutual communication. Better just sit down, talk and arrange matters, like they have everywhere else in the world. It's the Gospel way. If this ludicrous Sir Humphrey approach is all that's possible, at least try and keep the legalese simple, brief & to the point.


UKViewer said...

Couldn't agree more. Wrapping this stuff up in lawyer speak is due to it's going to Parliament. And Laws are always written in a way that only lawyers (at great cost) can understand.

To many would, should, or may's yesterday for my liking.

The Dean of Durham has written a brilliant peace much along the lines of simplicity and clarity being necessary. And "lets get on with it".

His witness of the black, marble line across the floor in Durham Cathedral, which excluded women from worship, where the monks worsipped in ancient times and the women priest standing astride the line to illustrate where the church is on women's ministry is a powerful one.

Time to get off of the fence. Jump before we're pushed by lawyers or politicians, they won't accept any less than full, open equality.

Anonymous said...

But isn't this the heart of the issue? The trouble for me, as one who dithers about both priestly and episcopal womens' ordination, is that so much of this debate now seems to be wrapped up in a language concerned with human rights and anti discrimination. I'm not sure that this is a Gospel language. It is all very well for Guardian readers to couch their thoughts in these terms but I am not sure that it will do for the Church. Surely, ours has to be a theological discourse based on concepts of justice, the Kingdom, calling,etc etc?

Sally D said...

I'd love a link to the Dean of Durham's piece if that's possible.

As to the comments on that other site - not very enlightening or constructive but then the "debate" set up was fairly weak to start with since Adrian Furse did nothing much more than talk about himself.

Until male leaders start really listening to women and trying to put themselves in women's place (something apparently unthinkable or Taboo for many of them) it doesn't seem as though discussions will get far.

I did however detect a strong thread of "disestablishmentarianism" arising from this. It looks as though the force of logic is saying, by all means be a sexist discriminatory anachronism if that is what your Bible prescribes but if that's what you're going to be, you have no right to be involved in Government".

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Sally, Michael Sadgrove's piece =

Anonymous said...

VG here. I am scripturally and in every other way in favour of women's ordination, and I do take it seriously, and I respect the right of every chap to have a beard if he wants to have one. However, I would like to suggest that the church ditches the mitred fancy hat. It has - to that part of my mind which is a sniggery schoolboy or girl, still alive after 50+ years on the planet - to have an unfortunate resemblance to a generalised representation of the male anatomy, and when accompanied by a beard and said combination is multipled in procession --- well, it's very, very bad. Perhaps if women and men bishops didn't get togged out in ludicrously inappropriate headgear the visual jarring to the sensitive mind would disappear.

Honest to God, the entire debate has become stiflingly trivialised by Synod. And I cannot for one minute brook any more Being Nice to People With Scriptural Dilemmas About Women. I've suffered quite directly from such people all my life: I don't care how 'honest' their dilemmas are. Mine are equally 'honest' and equally painful, but at least I'm not telling these folk that their pain is being inflicted on them by me because God Tells Me I Have To.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thanks VG. One interesting basic principle of anti-discriminatory praxis is that it is not for the perpetrator to decide if discrimination is happening but the perpetratee (if that's a word). Add to that the C of E Cult of Nice, and this debate will be quite difficult to have. I am still reeling at the thought that something having received a majority of between 77 and 95%, there is still the will in the Archbishop, God love him, to flog the dead horse of the amendment. The Catholic way to do this would have been t start with bishops, but the C of E is too hierarchical and class bound to do that; backfilling the ecclesiological result is a bizarre exercise. And all this talk about sacramental assurance is difficult to square with Catholicism 101, because whole point of Sacraments is that they have ontological significance over and above individual who ministers them. If nothing or something happens it's God's responsibility, not ours.

Erika Baker said...

despite all the froth being talked about at the moment, the church has decided a long time ago that there is no theological objection to women as priests and bishops. You wouldn't know it from the way the opponents are trying to re-run the debate, but it has actually been had and it has been settled.

All we're talking about is how to accommodate those who find the reality of their church hard to cope with.

Because of that we don't need to discuss women as bishops in the light of the gospel any longer. It's been done.

And because the church corporately has decided that women can be priests and bishops, not to make them priests and bishops now on an equal footing with men would be nothing but discrimination.
Which is why that's the only thing we're talking about.

Which level of accommodation is possible, which level is too discriminatory - that's the only question left to talk about.

June Butler said...

What I wrote after reading the account of the Synod discussion at the BBC website:

How insulting, patronizing, and downright tedious to read of this sort of nonsensical discussion in this year of 2012. For heaven's sake, the Church of England has had women priests for 20 years! How long, O Lord!

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

I don't know why the English always have to find a more complicated and painful way of doing simple things. It's clear as a pikestaff from everywhere else in the world that the kindest, as well as the least histrionic way to do this is just to do it. As John Harvey Jones used to say, you can only get shot once. Then sit down with everyone it impacts and go to the greatest lengths possible, with great kindness, to help them in any way that's possible. This is all the more so in England because the variety among the tiny company of people impacted negatively is immense - for some episcopacy is actually of little to no account, to others it's the core of their ecclesiology, for some it's about preaching, for others the Eucharist. Listen carefully to the real issue and then respond kindly to real issues as they arise. That way everybody ends up in the best possible place.

Anonymous said...

I am one of those who cannot square the arguments for women's ordination. I really ,truely, wish I could - not least because of the hurt and frustration I know it causes others - but I can't. I have been a stipendary priest for over twenty years and spent all of that time revisiting this time and again. I know nothing else other than to be a parish priest. I have no calling to be a RC or Orthodox and hope for nothing more than to be able to exercise my ministry in the CofE.

Bishop Alan, how are you going 'with great kindness' to help me?

Jan Taylor said...

Erica Baker

Following on from your reply to Anomynous. If I may agree and then disagree. Yes, the Church has come to a mind about the the theology behind women's ordination. However, in that it has acknowledged that there are other, legitimate, view points that can be held (the 'honoured place' etc). We did this on a theological basis. To suddenly move to see this in terms of a secular concept of discrimination seems strange to me as we have afforded theological legitimacy.

Hence, this has to be a theological debate. How does the CofE with a relatively undeveloped theology of episcopacy, but a strong notion of praxis, meet the requests of minority who will not or cannot accept the authority of a bishop placed over them?

Our theology is all we have.

We are hampered in that while we have a theology of episcopacy based on praxis, we don't really have one which is universally theologically accepted. So

June Butler said...

Anonymous stipendary priest, how will women bishops affect your ministry? Whether the church allows women bishops or not, I don't see why you can't just carry on with your parish ministry, as you've been doing for 20 years, serving your parishioners.

Erika Baker said...

Jan Taylor,

I wish I had an answer!

We're in a position now where it is clear that the church cannot seriously honour both theologies.

It cannot have female priests and bishops on an equal footing with men at the same time as create structures that protect parishes from accepting female bishops.

Someone, somewhere has to give. And the question is whether it is really fair to expect women and their supporters to accept a second class bishopric for them.

Is that really a valid interpretation of accepting "other legitimate views" from an organisation that has overwhelmingly decided to have female priests and bishops?

At what point does the minority position then dictate the majority response?

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Anonymous, I much appreciate your openness and straightforwardness about how you feel. It would be good to find a way through, and I am sure many people of all persuasions will want to support you in friendship, prayer and otherwise as this process develops.

You should not under any circumstances pretend to be somewhere your not - people respect others who stand up for their beliefs. Best if you can develop a positive way to articulate your point of view about the necessary maleness as you see it of episcopal ministry (i.e. going beyond negative assertions about women)

I'm not sure a historical analysis is that helpful, but it gives perspective. You will soon find yourself basically in the position occupied by women who experienced a strong call to holy orders between the late nineteenth century and 1988 - bearing witness to something from the margin.

The story of the Oxford movement is one of successive waves of last straw — Irish bishoprics (1833) Gorham (1851) Divorce Law reform (1859) PWRA (1874) Lincoln judgement (1891) Papal condemnation of Anglican Orders (1897) Church Crisis (1898) DWS Act (1907) Kikuyu (1914) PB revision (1928) Bishop Barnes (1939) CSI (1947) Methodist Union Scheme (1968) etc. Each one of these seemed critical at the time. There was life after all of them, but it was a rough old road sometimes.

Actually Western Catholic theology is intrinsically very helpful because it anchors ordination in ontology, taking the responsibility for validity off the individual. Similarly the Catholic rejection of Novatianism produced a theology of sacramental assurance where the efficacy of the sacrament does not depend on the individual through whom episcopacy is notionally exercised. If nothing is happening sacramentally, or anything, it's down to God not you. This is why the whole theology of taint thing was ridiculous from a strictly Catholic point of view, although popular I know among some. Ecclesiologically the best way to have done this would have been all in one, and failing that, starting with bishops.

As far as Anglican orders go, nothing in any of this at any time since 1897 changes RC rejection of them, and the ordinariate fishing exercise changes nothing there.

Finally, you probably have far more friends than you know... and far more understanding and prayer around you than may appear.

Erika Baker said...

The elephant in this particular room is the definition of "pastorally sensitive".

I must admit to being very much in two minds about what that actually means. In the lgbt debate I experience "pastoral sensitivity" as arrogance, because it puts me firmly in my place while sensitively patting my head and I run screaming from anyone who asserts that they can deny me equality while, naturally, being perfectly qualified to minister to me sensitively.

You can be pastorally sensitive about something you have had no hand in creating – you could be pastorally sensitive if I had murdered my child and you were called to minister to me.
But where we have, in effect, a power battle between two opposing sides, the winner isn’t really capable of ministering sensitively to the loser. To my mind, that just adds insult to injury and only serves to make the winner feel good about himself.

There are different ways of doing things, that is clear. But unless people are given precisely what they want, or at least a compromise acceptable to them, they will not take kindly to being sensitively dealt with.

In the lgbt debate no-one would lose out anything by treating us equally. In this debate, however, we have to accept that in ending discrimination against women and ending their pain and that of their supporters, there will be a very small minority of people who will actually not get what they want and who will find themselves in a very very painful place. The very nature of this debate means that giving both sides what they want is not possible.

Maybe, if we truly see the others as equal to us and if we truly understand their pain, we need to give them honesty, not “pastoral sensitivity”.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thanks, Erika. I agree - pastoral care is often understood merely in terms of "pleasant bedside manner" especially in English culture which sets such a confusing premium on manners rather than substance. None of us wants, rightly, to take responsibility for causing anyone else pain; but when I think back to the blokey smoke filled rooms of misogynists in which I began my ministry I think those seeking to abolish discrimination in the Church's senior leadership have been very much more kind and understanding, as far as in them lies, to the small group of whom you speak than was the case when called women were in the position they now find themselves. In a way gaffing about the structure needs to stop, because then there's a clear idea of what has happened that will enable the multifarious constituency of people negatively impacted by change to understand and articulate how we can help.

Rosalind said...

The crazy part of this whole parallel reality that is General Synod - and in this debate, particularly the House of bishops - is that so many of the bishops seem to think that they can, by themselves, in May(only a few weeks from Synod meeting) find a way of placating those who want to keep their bit of the church exactly as it has always been without diminishing women clergy of all kinds . The women and many others who support women being bishops have already accepted almost demeaning numbers of pages of legalese to try to help those who find this difficult, but are stil being accused of being unwilling to compromise. It's nothing of the sort - but it is saying that any further and our identity as women clergy wil have been so undermined we can't do it - maybe we can't even continue to be priests in this sort of institution that doesn't realise how much it is not listening. I'm told the HoB needs high quality diversity training asap.

But what does a mitre do to a man's head that so many of them think they can find an acceptable solution to this issue in the House of Bishops which is - by definition - totally male? Is this self-deception or hubris?

The diocesan vote gave the opportunity for to bishops -who say that they can't imagine what will happen if the legislation fails in July and there is no "plan B", and it will be "unimaginably awful" - to get behind the clear discernment of the dioceses and support the measure as it is - then they could spend their time and energy on working with those who find this hard to accept, to find out how they might work within the legisation as proposed. But don't think everyone will be happy - at the moment no one is, and if the Measure is lost then women clergy will be lost too, but without making a big noise about it.

And please don't read this as an attempt to get rid of anyone in the C of E, lay or ordained, who finds this a development too far - but until it is settled there is no framework within which to start the relational work that is the only way to go forward together - nor energy to do this.

Katrina, Bible Games Blogger said...

I am so happy to see that other people are just as outraged by this discrimination as I am. It’s 2012, after all, and times they are (and have been) a-changing. What’s so wrong with female bishops and leaders in the church? I see myself as a female church leader—it’s just that my flock happens to be the younger of our churchgoers.

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