30.1.11

Church in a 'state'








EDM 1364






Field, Frank
That this House welcomes the current moves by the General Synod of the Church of England to pass legislation permitting women to be bishops; notes that the Synod is currently engaged in consulting the Dioceses on the Women in the Episcopate: draft bishops and priests (consecration and ordination of women) Measure; further notes that General Synod expects to debate the final approval stage of the Measure in July 2012; encourages the House of Bishops to commend the Measure as currently drafted; and calls on Her Majesty's Government to remove any exemptions pertaining to gender under existing equality legislation, in the event that the Measure has overwhelming support in the dioceses but fails through a technicality to receive final approval in General Synod.




How do you feel about the government abolishing the Church's current exemption from equality laws relating to gender discrimination so that it might consecrate women?
Surely, we have to hope that this reform is passed by the Church first. I am not sure how any real credence will be lent to the situation if it is pushed through by government.
How able are Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes, Labour former Home Secretary David Blunkett, Diana Johnson, Labour ex-minister Stephen Timms, Natascha Engel, and veteran Conservative Sir Peter Bottomley actually able to engage with the theological debate?
Julian Mann points our attention to the fact that this is the last thing that us Open evangelicals might actually benefit from.
Oh yikes!
This move to consecrate women has to be authored by the church first. 

It must be decided after scripture and in accordance with proper theological debate. Hooker writes about how the church should conduct itself in the face of dissent. Perhaps those opposed to women bishops should consider how if 'Things were disputed before they came to be determined; men afterwards were not to dispute any longer, but to obey.' Hooker calls for an obedience to the majority decision as 'ground sufficient for any reasonable man’s conscience... whatsoever his own opinion were as touching the matter before in question.' The Government are correct in thinking that the majority agree with the consecration of women bishops. Could it not be that those opposed come to see eventually that this move to consecrate women to the episcopate is of God. Hooker's is a call for obedience, except if there is 'any just or necessary cause' against it. However, necessary causes must not be those that can not be substantiated by everyone else's consciences being equally disturbed. He explains, 'Neither wish we that men should do anything which in their hearts they are persuaded they ought not to do, but,' and the “but” betrays, with what follows, that he will not look kindly on individual dissenters, when 'my whole endeavour is to resolve the conscience ... [to] follow the light of sound and sincere judgement, without either cloud of prejudice, or mist of passionate affection.' Passionate affections can lead people astray, is the implication, and dissenters are to be guided by the majority opinion on a matter of possible controversy. Passionate affections in this case have led people to give up on the church altogether and move to Rome, surely those remaining will see the light eventually. 

Someone I found interesting to read for her beliefs about those who argue from tradition and against women bishops was Janet Martin Soskice. 

She says: 

"Those who urge the Church's tradition as an argument against women's ordination are inconsistent with that tradition in failing to deplore female monarchs, prime ministers, members of parliament or members of church synods, heads of church colleges, and chairpersons of bodies of great power in state and church. To have capitulated in this arena in order to preserve a cordon sanitaire around the Church's ministry is absolutely to have abandoned Hooker's position. 

What we discover, then, in Hooker is an undeniably Anglican doctrine of the Church that enables us to reflect seriously on the implications for church polity of a new understanding of female/male relationship. It is a position that has no obligation to be unremittingly hostile to church tradition in order to satisfy the instincts of radical feminism, nor, on the other hand, is it obliged to assume the immutability of laws even of divine origin. It is a position, moreover, that has a high doctrine of the apostolic ministry, and no a priori objection to the existence of a hierarchy. It would not feel obliged to impose the same structures upon all cultures at the same time, and could enjoy what Hooker describes in a felicitous phrase as the "manifold and yet harmonious dissimulitude of those wayes whereby his Church upon earth is guided from age to age."

After Eve, Janet Martin Soskice, ed. (London Marshall Pickering, 1990)

So Diana Johnson and Natascha Engel have an opinion and are voicing it. Conservative evangelicals have no problem with women in secular authority but they do have a problem with women having authority in the church and the home. It seems strange that for once open evangelicals might be less happy about these women interfering in the church's process to make women bishops. Government help or government hinder? I wonder how this one will unfold.

1 comment:

wanida said...

I think Stephen Timms is quite able and capable of holding his own in a theological debate. After all, he's the labour vice chair of the faiths group, editor of the newsletter, 'Churches Update' and has been a contributor the the Tawney Lecture.
As for the rest of them, I can't tell you the state their theological understanding.

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A little background reading on the two theological integrities in the Church of England regarding women in ministry.