Posted by Christopher Johnson | Tuesday, November 20th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 32 Comments

The Church of England delays its final irrelevance for a few more years:

The Church of England’s governing body on Tuesday narrowly blocked a move to permit women to serve as bishops, leaving the church facing more years of contentious debate.

Following a day-long debate on Tuesday, opponents mustered enough support to deny the necessary two-thirds majority among lay members of the General Synod.

The defeat was a setback for Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who retires at the end of December, and his successor, Bishop Justin Welby. Both had strongly endorsed a proposed compromise that they had hoped would end decades of debate.

Passage of legislation to allow women to serve as bishops must be approved by two-thirds majorities in the synod’s three houses: bishops, priests and laity. Synod members were voting on the latest compromise which calls for church leaders to “respect” the position of parishes that oppose female bishops – without saying exactly what “respect” means.

The vote was 132 in favor and 74 against. In separate votes, bishops voted 44-3 in favor with 2 abstentions, and clergy voted 148-45 in favor.

CBS Radio News’ Larry Miller reports Bishop of Norwich Graham James voted for women bishops.

“It feels at the moment incredibly disappointing ,” James said.

Church officials say it may take five years to go through the process of taking new legislation to a final vote.

There has been discussion here and there of Parliament stepping in and forcing female bishops on the C of E.  I don’t know the legalities involved but if Parliament can do it and wants to, it might as well.  The narrowness of this vote momentarily inconveniences the inevitable; the Church of England will one day have female bishops.

UPDATE: If this Telegraph story is accurate, Parliament fully intends to intervene.

The Church of England will face a battle in Parliament and the prospect of legal challenges if it fails to approve women bishops on Tuesday, MPs said on Monday.

Special legal privileges and even its position as the established Church could be called into question if the General Synod rejected the plan, they warned.

MPs, who must approve any Synod decision before it receives Royal Assent, warned that a failure to approve the proposal could undermine the Church of England’s position as the established Church. Chris Bryant, the Labour MP and a former Anglican priest, said the legislation would face a “rough ride” in Parliament if there were any further concessions to traditionalists. “If the legislation leans too far towards the traditionalist that won’t please the Commons and the legislation would have trouble,” he said.

“There are quite a few of us who think that the way this is leaning is entrenching forever a religious apartheid within the Church of England.”

He added that a rejection would “undoubtedly undermine” support for aspects of establishment, including bishops in the Lords and the role of Parliament approving Church laws.

Frank Field, a former Labour minister who sits on the parliamentary ecclesiastical committee, said that in the event of a no vote, he would table a motion to remove the Church’s special exemptions from equality laws.

“It would mean that they couldn’t continue to discriminate against women,” he said.

32 Comments to STAY OF EXECUTION

November 20, 2012

I have to admit, I’m surprised. I really did think this would get shoved through. But yes, I think Parliament will get involved, because the progressives will whinge loudly enough about it (probably with added anti-Catholicism thrown in: “Do you want the rest of the world to think we’re as backward as the RCs?”) to make them do so, and David Cameron is himself a socially progressive type and having women bishops will be good PR and cost him nothing extra as regards the public finances (if you’re going to have to pay for bishops anyway, you might as well get them in the complete set) or votes.

Milton Finch
November 20, 2012

They are having an emergency meeting on Wednesday at 8 or 8:30 a.m. to consider the consequences of the vote and may reintroduce the vote sooner than 2015.

November 20, 2012

As usual: Keep voting until you get the result you want.

Daniel aka Fisherman
November 20, 2012

2% points in the lay house prevented this from passing. And I could probably name the 3 bishops who opposed (the remaining Anglo-Catholics).

Rowan can retire with the distinction of having accomplished nothing other than the near destruction of the Anglican Communion. He can also stuff his Covenant in his pipe and smoke it.

November 20, 2012

Vox populi, vox Deo? Apparently not according to the feminists and Parliament citations. And, yet, the laity have voted and held the line. Should this result in the disestablishment of the CoE, it might not be the worst thing that could happen. But if that happens, it will be interesting to see how the revisionists support themselves.

Dave Wells
November 20, 2012

Erastianism. Pure and simple.

Dale Matson
November 20, 2012

“…it will be interesting to see how the revisionists support themselves.” Two words, “Social Workers”. Currently they are unequally yoked with unbelievers.

November 20, 2012

Still partly-nominally part of the Church catholic, but only until the progressives can have their political whims? That’s not really catholic at all, is it?

God help us.

William Tighe
November 20, 2012

As I suggested on another thread, we may well see “1559 come round again” if the legislation is defeated, as it now has been.

I frequently invoke the example of the Church of Sweden and its long debilitating strife over WO as a kind of “Eram quod es, sum quod eris” (to quote a commonplace on medieval tomb inscriptions) mirror for the Church of England, but, in legal theory at least, the Erastian circumstances of the Church of England are far more thoroughgoing than those which prevailed in Sweden when the Church of Sweden was an established church (it was disestablished in 2000, but in way that left the liberal establishment totally in control of its governing structure). In Sweden, when the Church Assembly unexpectedly rejected WO in 1957 (with a majority of its bishops voting against it), the proponents were initially stymied, as Swedish law then required BOTH the Church Assembly AND the Swedish Parliament to approve any “ecclesiastical legislation” before it could become law. Not to worry, though: the Swedish Parliament rushed through legislation authorizing WO (which would apply to bishops as wellas to priests), and then called new elections for a Church Assembly session to meet in 1958. In those elections, Swedish political parties put forward their own candidates for election as lay delegates to the Church Assembly, and the election campaign was attended by threats to disestablish the church and confiscate its assets. The strategy worked: in 1958 WO was approved (a number of bishops switched sides from the previous year’s vote), and the first women were (purportedly) ordained in 1960.

The legislation was attended by a “conscience clause” intended to benefit opponents of WO, but in 1983 that clause was revoked, and in 1994 (and since 2000 in the disestablished church) the ordination as deacons or priests of anyone opposed to WO has been forbidden, and the selection as bishops of any clergy opposed to WO likewise.

This could be the Church of England’s future as well, and, if I recall correctly, in England Parliament retains full authority to legislate “unilaterally” on church matters, should it choose to do so.

Those interested may wish to consult this legal case:

This 1997 case is a subsidiary to an earlier 1994 case, but I cannot find a report of the former case online. What is clear from it, however, is that it is still “settled law” in England that “the doctrine of the Church of England is whatever Parliament declares it to be.” So Erastianism rules okay.

The real parallel to England is Denmark, where the Danish Parliament legislated for WO in 1947 despite the opposition at the time to WO of eight of the ten bishops of the Danish State Church.

Michael D
November 20, 2012

This is not a make-it-or-break it issue in my opinion. Unlike abortion, same-sex, other gods, which are all salvation issues explicitly forbidden in scripture.

November 20, 2012

Michael D, are you, therefore, willing to roll over the consciences of those who do think that breaking an apostolic practice which has considerable support in scripture is “make or break”? YOU don’t think it’s make or break, but it’s the Tradition and consciences of the minority which are in question.

November 20, 2012

So the theology and polity of the Anglican Church is to be finally determined and imposed by a secular body, the majority of whose members are NOT even nominally practicing members of that church and if anything are much more likely outright antipathetic to it. Unless the Church disestablishes itself,frees itself from this external interference and stick to its theological roots, it will go all the way of the Scandinavian National churches, quaint remnants of a past culture merely animating the glorious examples of architectural wonders called cathedrals and churches, in particular on national occasions like Royal weddings and baptisms and funerals.

FW Ken
November 20, 2012

finally determined?

Sorry, but if memory serves, Parliament enacted the 39 Articles (originally 42, I think), the early prayer books, and so on back in the 16th century. The Church of England is established by the good graces of Parliament, and may be disestablished. That may not be a bad thing

It’s worth meditating on the possibility (probability?) that had the liberals compromised (been “liberal” in fact) and allowed a safe place for traditional believers, they would have had their women bishops.

Michael D
November 20, 2012

hi Katherine,

I suspect I would roll over consciences in either direction. I’m going by the old rule-of-thumb apparently falsely attributed to my hero St. Gus:

In essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity.

Michael D
November 20, 2012

Apparently that dictum originated with Rupertus Meldenius, in his 1627 best-seller Paraenesis votiva pro Pace Ecclesiae ad Theologos Augustanae Confessionis where it is phrased as follows:

Si nos servaremus IN necesariis Unitatem, IN non-necessariis Libertatem, IN UTRISQUE Charitatem, optimo certe loco essent res nostrae.

November 20, 2012

@ FW Ken Take your point: I had in mind solely the resolution by the Parliament/sovereign “divine right” of the current ecclesiastical theological/polity impasse only.

Dave Wells
November 20, 2012

Such a close vote. Never in the field of ecclesiastical combat was so much owed by so many to so few.

Don Janousek
November 20, 2012

Jeepers! The homosexual cult that calls itself a “church” voted against female bishops? For now, anyway.

Why, I’ll bet the morbidly obese, syphilitic English King, Henry VIII, is rolling in his grave.

After all, if a “church” can be founded on murdering wives and killing St. Thomas More is acceptable, what is the big deal with female bishops?

But, not to worry. Liberals never quit. The first female bishop in the homosexual cult of Henry VIII in few years will be both female and lesbian.

Anyone wanna bet? I thought not.

November 20, 2012

MIchael D, I’m all for charity. In this case, continuing the PEV system which went into place when women were first permitted to be priests would have been charitable. Reneging on the promises that were made is NOT charity.

Allen Lewis
November 20, 2012

Revisionists have a great track record of lying through their teeth to get their way and then reneging on their promises. They justify their actions in terms of “fairness” and “justice.” “Honesty” and “truthfulness” never seem to come into play. Perhaps those concepts are not part of their vocabulary.

They are certainly not part of their practice!

Sheryl D
November 20, 2012

I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. 1 Timothy 2:12

FW Ken
November 20, 2012

The real question is what constitutes “charity”.

Deacon Michael D. Harmon
November 20, 2012

Why can’t a woman be more like a man?
Men are so honest, so thoroughly square;
Eternally noble, historically fair.
Who, when you win, will always give your back a pat.
Why can’t a woman be like that?
Why does every one do what the others do?
Can’t a woman learn to use her head?
Why do they do everything their mothers do?
Why don’t they grow up, well, like their father instead?

(The British should really be careful what they wish for.)

William Tighe
November 21, 2012

I “rattle the liberal cage” on this thread:

but, as I hope is evident, my comments on that thread are not wholly facetious.

Ed the Roman
November 21, 2012

Michael D,

The only scriptural proscriptions of arson are of cultivated fields. Sure you’re willing to be flexible on that?

Jim the Puritan
November 21, 2012

Oh goody, first we get to live in a revival of the Great Depression, and now we get to go through the 16th and 17th centuries again!

Willism Tighe
November 21, 2012

Erastianism rules supreme:

In a strongly worded speech on Wednesday, Williams warned that the failure
of the vote in the house of laity on Tuesday had made the church’s
governing body appear “wilfully blind” to the priorities of secular

“We have – to put it very bluntly – a lot of explaining to do,” he said.
“Whatever the motivations for voting yesterday … the fact remains that a
great deal of this discussion is not intelligible to our wider society.
Worse than that, it seems as if we are wilfully blind to some of the trends
and priorities of that wider society.”

November 21, 2012

And Cameron: “I’m very clear the time is right for women bishops; it was right many years ago,” he told Parliament on Wednesday. “They need to get on with it, as it were, and get with the program. But you do have to respect the individual institutions and the way they work while giving them a sharp prod.”

It’s very nice that he respects the church’s rules, procedures and institutions enough to allow them to go through their own motions in implementing the government’s will, provided of course that they don’t take too long about it.

November 21, 2012

Yes, Jim the Puritan, it does seem very like a time warp where the antidisestablishmentarians get to call all the shots, ignoring that non-believers in Parliament make very poor Christian church leaders.

November 21, 2012

“[I]t seems as if we are wilfully blind to some of the trends and priorities of that wider society.”

Anyone would think, from the way he puts it, that it was some kind of a bad thing for the church not to allow itself to be led by the nose by “the trends and priorities” of secular culture.

William Tighe
November 21, 2012

Compared to the Erastian situation of the Church of England, note the following declaration of the Kirk of Scotland in 1926 (excerpted):

Articles Declaratory of the Constitution of the Church of Scotland in Matters Spiritual, 1926.

III. This Church is in historical continuity with the Church of Scotland which was reformed in 1560, whose liberties were ratified in 1592, and for whose security provision was made in the Treaty of Union of 1707. The continuity and identity of the Church of Scotland are not prejudiced by the adoption of these Articles. As a national Church representative of the Christian Faith of the Scottish people it acknowledges its distinctive call and duty to bring the ordinances of religion to the people in every parish of Scotland through a territorial ministry.

IV. This Church, as part of the Universal Church wherein the Lord Jesus Christ has appointed a government in the hands of Church office-bearers, receives from Him, its Divine King and Head, and from Him alone, the right and power subject to no civil authority to legislate, and to adjudicate finally, in all matters of doctrine, worship, government, and discipline in the Church, including the right to determine all questions concerning membership and office in the Church, the constitution and membership of its Courts, and the mode of election of its office-bearers, and to define the boundaries of the spheres of labour of its ministers and other office-bearers. Recognition by civil authority of the separate and independent government and jurisdiction of this Church in matters spiritual, in whatever manner such recognition be expressed, does not in any way affect the character of this government and jurisdiction as derived from the Divine Head of the Church alone, or give to the civil authority any right of interference with the proceedings or judgments of the Church within the sphere of its spiritual government and jurisdiction.

V. This Church has the inherent right, free from interference by civil authority, but under the safeguards for deliberate action and legislation provided by the Church itself, to frame or adopt its subordinate standards, to declare the sense in which it understands its Confession of Faith, to modify the forms of expression therein, or to formulate other doctrinal statements, and to define the relation thereto of its office-bearers and members, but always in agreement with the Word of God and the fundamental doctrines of the Christian Faith contained in the said Confession, of which agreement the Church shall be sole judge, and with due regard to liberty of opinion in points which do not enter into the substance of the Faith.

VI. This Church acknowledges the divine appointment and authority of the civil magistrate within his own sphere, and maintains its historic testimony to the duty of the nation acting in its corporate capacity to render homage to God, to acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ to be King over the nations, to obey His laws, to reverence His ordinances, to honour His Church, and to promote in all appropriate ways the Kingdom of God. The Church and the State owe mutual duties to each other, and acting within their respective spheres may signally promote each other’s welfare. The Church and the State have the right to determine each for itself all questions concerning the extent and the continuance of their mutual relations in the discharge of these duties and the obligations arising therefrom.

Willism Tighe
November 23, 2012

An Anglican voice crying in the wildeness:

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