Traditionalists saddened by latest women-bishop proposals

Click to enlargeTHE House of Bishops preference for the provision of women bishops, “option one”, has been severely criticised by the Catholic Group in General Synod as a “step backwards”.

In the first detailed traditionalist response, the group’s chairman, Canon Simon Killwick (pictured here), says that they are “saddened” by the Bishops’ preference, accusing them of “closing down debate before it has started”.

He writes: “Option one will not help to achieve a consensus; it will not create legislation capable of achieving the required majorities. It would tear up the current settlement over women priests, and replace it with arrangements which no one would be obliged to follow.”

The statement, issued on 3 June, gives little credence to the Bishops’ appeal to trust. “We regulate other areas of church life in great detail by law – measures, canons and regulations – and we see no justification for abandoning that approach in relation to one of the most controversial areas of our church life.”

The proposals involve repealing the statutory protection for traditionalists, Resolutions A and B. The Catholic Group argues that keeping them “would provide the essential underpinning” for any future arrangements, which “need to be secure, and not dependent on the discretionary decisions of individual bishops, clergy, PCCs, patrons and parish representatives”.

The statement concludes: “We will continue to reflect and pray, and consult with others, before deciding what amendments to propose to the Synod in July, in order to move the process forwards and build consensus.”

These criticisms match those of conservative Evangelicals represented by Reform, who described the future under these proposals as “really rather bleak”.

The Catholic Group statement in full:

ONE STEP FORWARD ~ ONE STEP BACK

We welcome the report of the Working Party set up by the House of Bishops (annexed to GS 1886) as a significant step forward towards legislation for women bishops in the Church of England.

The Church of England needs a settlement which will provide both for women bishops, and for those who are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops, on grounds of theological conviction – convictions which are supported by Holy Scripture, and the consensus of the wider Church. We recognise in the five propositions in the report, taken together, the possible basis for a settlement – with the exception of the reference to canonical obedience.

What is needed now is the building of a sufficiently large consensus behind legislative proposals that they are capable of comfortably receiving the necessary two-thirds majorities in all three Houses of the Synod.

We are saddened by the selection of option one (the simplest possible legislation) by the House of Bishops at this early stage. This feels like a step backwards in the process, closing down debate before it has started, and rendering facilitated conversations between Synod members pointless. Option one will not help to achieve a consensus; it will not create legislation capable of achieving the required majorities. It would tear up the current settlement over women priests, and replace it with arrangements which no one would be obliged to follow.

The effects would be felt most by the laity, who would not only lose their existing legal rights, but could also be open to legal challenge under the Equality Act. Option one would unbalance the five propositions, giving most weight to the first two, and less weight to the other three.

The option preferred by the bishops relies simply on trust to provide for those who cannot accept the ministry of women bishops and priests. We regulate other areas of church life in great detail by law – measures, canons and regulations – and we see no justification for abandoning that approach in relation to one of the most controversial areas of our church life. Were option one to be accepted, we would be in the strange situation that who presides at the celebration of the Eucharist would be governed by grace and trust, while who administers Holy Communion would be determined by regulations made under canon.

We believe that the way forward lies in holding together all of the five propositions, without giving any of them more prominence than the others. The retention of Resolutions A and B from the current settlement would provide the essential underpinning for any future arrangements to honour the last three propositions; the arrangements need to be secure, and not dependent on the discretionary decisions of individual bishops, clergy, PCCs, patrons and parish representatives.

Further consideration still needs to be given to issues concerning the jurisdiction of diocesan bishops, and oaths of canonical obedience – consideration which had the support of majorities of the General Synod and the Revision Committee at different times in the past.

We will continue to reflect and pray, and consult with others, before deciding what amendments to propose to the Synod in July, in order to move the process forwards and build consensus.

Canon Simon Killwick
(Chairman of the Catholic Group in General Synod)

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About The Voice Of Bombay's Catholic Laity

Bombay Laity Ezekiel’s Chapter 3 Task as Watchman 17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 18 When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for[b] their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. 19 But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself.
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