Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 23 November 2012

No Women Bishops yet

So the long-running saga of women's ordination in the Church of England has not yet reached its endgame, or indeed the happy ending desired by its proponents, of the sanctioning of the consecration of women to the Anglican episcopate.

The issue is no longer my direct concern any more, though I retain a concern for the life of this national institution and for its place in our national life. There is also a continuing concern for those of the Anglo-Catholic tradition who remain within the Church of England.  I must admit I expected the legislation to go through, though I was aware of infomed speculation that it would fail to get the necessary votes.

The Synod vote on Tuesday was not only a rebuff of considerable magnitude on the political Richter scale to the dominant liberal ascendancy but also a rebuff to proponents in the Catholic Church both of women's ordination and to those amongst them who appeal to the laity as a means of effecting change.

Listening to Sir Tony Baldry speaking as Second Church Estates Commissioner, resplendant in his Garrick Club (men only) tie I sensed I was hearing echoes of the Gorham judgment of 1850. The General Synod was not debating the theology of consecrating women  - the pass on that has already been sold - but the legal mechanism to implement it. By refusing reasonable safeguards for those who do not accept such female appointees the Liberal Establishment secured its own defeat - no wonder they are so hurt and angry - there is, after all,  nothing so ill-liberal as a thwarted Liberal.

Despite what the Prime Minister might say about nudging the Cof E I doubt if politicians will want to spend Parliamentary time and energy, let alone whether they should, forcing through legislation that undermines the whole principle of the General Synod as set up to be an autonomous legislative bodyand risks a Church-State clash, and might well involve other denominations - and all that with the proposals on redefining marriage looming. Unlike the Prayer Book controversy of 1927-28 the politicians are not, I suspect, as theologically literate as their predecessors of eighty plus years ago, so it is possible that the equality argument is all that would be heard. The Synod may be bounced somehow, but that is more likely to drive out the Anglo-Catholics. Fortunately the Ordinariate is there to welcome them.

As an Anglican friend said to me it shows Dr Williams' knack of turning everything he touchs to dust and ashes - his Primacy will not be remembered for securing women in the episcopate, but for its failure - and Dr Welby faces even more problems than he already had waiting on the archiepiscopal desk at Lambeth.

Amongst  Catholic bloggers there are these posts on the subject from Fr Blake, Women bishops?  and Her Majesty's Ministry for Religion  and from Fr Tim Finigan Disturbing prospects after the Synod vote and  Anglicans fell just two votes short of getting wha...


1 comment:

Antonia said...

I'm glad you've posted this. It's no longer my direct concern, either, as one who is no longer an Anglican, but my heart is still sore at the ongoing pain and division - and at some of the vitriolic comments being thrown around. So far I haven't written about it on my blog as I didn't feel it was my business to do so, but maybe I'll allude to it now that you have!

Thanks for all your fascinating posts, by the way.