Monday, July 11, 2011

+Victoria Matthews in England at Open Synod group

I could imagine a headline "Kiwi Woman Bishop Makes Waves At General Synod" but the English news cycle is dominated by other events these days, what with the demise of the News of the World and the Church of England threatening to sell its shares in News International (what was it doing with share in that beast in the first place?). So I am very grateful to find a blog report on Bishop Victoria's address to the Open Synod Group - a report as it happens by Suem who often comments here. Thank you Suem!

ADDENDUM Interesting discussion and comments on some other remarks +Victoria has made in England at the Ugley Vicar.


carl jacobs said...

"Bishop Victoria is an Anglo Catholic, elected to a largely evangelical diocese with a flavour of Sydney evangelism and yet she has worked successfully alongside conservative evangelicals and Roman Catholic bishops."

Let's stipulate a fact upon which I am sure we can both agree. There are legitimate Christians on both sides of this argument. That doesn't mean both sides are right. One side is seriously wrong. That does not however rule out some level of cooperation and fellowship between the sides. It makes perfect sense that Christians who disagree sharply on this issue can still work together. What they cannot do is share a common organizational structure.

I oppose WO and all its works and all its ways. I would immediately leave a church that placed a woman in a position of spiritual authority. Yet I could cooperate with those who disagree subject to one single condition. I must not be put into a position that requires me to affirm the spiritual legitimacy of an ordained woman. That is an easy condition across organizations. It is an impossible burden within an organization.

We are told that grace can cut this Gordian knot. But what grace is truly being offered? The victors in the fight will graciously allow the vanquished to remain for a time. In the meantime, there will be no further accession to leadership positions of those who reject WO. And those who remain will not be allowed to act upon their beliefs. It is the grace of the hospice. The current generation will be last generation. How are they to protect and teach their congregations? They aren't supposed to. That's the whole point. They are graciously offered the prospect of seeing their position strangled by the organization they serve. It is grace offered from a position of power, and with the full knowledge that the offer of such grace is only temporary.

What grace is required of the vanquished? Well, none really, because it doesn't much matter what they think or do. They will be required to submit to the authority of a woman bishop, who in turn might for a time graciously extend some moderation in her authority. Or not as she sees fit. Promises made have already been broken, and there is no one to compel her authority. The recognition of authority is required whether grace be extended or not, and thus will men be forced to compromise their conscience. Or they could leave.

This is the bitter choice that is being forced on many, and all this talk of grace is nothing but bitter gall in the mouth. The truth is that this measure of grace seeks to facilitate the eradication of the opposition within a generation. That is not grace. It is the soothing voice of the veterinarian as puts an animal to sleep.


Peter Carrell said...

Grace, Carl, could mean living and serving in the Diocese of Christchurch for a while to see whether all of your prognostications above come true.

Do you ever wonder if God opposes the ordination of women with the vim and vigour you demonstrate in this comment?

Wouldn't it be extraordinary of God who made us male and female and redeemed us through his Son to be so opposed to women in leadership of his people? Can you imagine the Jesus who spoke with Mary and Martha, to the woman caught in adultery, to Mary Magdalene in the garden opposing women's ordination and all its works and ways? Denying the spiritual legitimacy of a woman in leadership?

I can't!

Rosemary Behan said...

Hmm, not sure I can see Jesus treating us as we've been treated either Peter. Have a care. You'll be called a one eyed Cantabrian next!

Suem said...

"It makes perfect sense that Christians who disagree sharply on this issue can still work together. What they cannot do is share a common organizational structure."

I think that that is the fear of some (on both sides) in the Church of England, Karl. All I can say is that Bishop Victoria did say that in her experience it had proved possible. Obviously if you would walk away from a church "immediately" a woman bishop was appointed then you would never have the opportunity to discover if it was or not?

"What grace is required of the vanquished" - well quite a lot really, perhaps most of all the grace - or the courage- not to see yourself as " the vanquished" in the first place. Bishop Victoria spoke of how we must not define the issue as "women in the Episcopate" but as episcopal ministry encompassing both genders. It remains your church, if you wish it to. It may not remain your church on exactly your terms, but then this is the situation women have always faced, and still do face. Have you asked yourself how a woman feels when she is told a ministry she believes is God given is not valid, when she is told that others do not accept her authority? Put yourself in those shoes and you will see that grace and generosity and the need to rise above bitterness and resentment is required from both sides.

carl jacobs said...

Peter Carrell

I find it interesting that you pass over the implications of what is about to happen, and immediately return to arguing the merits of your case. The time for that is past. There will be no evading what is about to happen by the expedient of convincing the opponents of WO that they are wrong.

I do not need to be a prophet to know what is about to happen in the CoE. I need only list a few incontrovertible facts.

1. Acceptance of the authority of a female bishop by opponents is a non-negotiable requirement.

2. The CoP will have no legal enforcement mechanism - that being the whole point of a CoP.

3. The CoP will exist at the discretion of the Bishop, and may be changed or discontinued at his pleasure.

4. Those who oppose WO will no longer be seen as fit candidates for leadership in the CoE.

Is it any wonder that those who are supposed to be protected by this CoP find it totally unacceptable? Condition 1 listed above is by itself a fatal impediment. Beside, no matter what the CoP says, there is absolutely no means by which a Bishop can be compelled to moderate his authority. The practice of the code does not have to conform to the words of the code.

At this point, I suspect you might appeal to grace and say "Trust." Except that trust has already been violated by the repudiation of past promises. And trust will in no case allow anyone to avoid the requirement of submitting to the authority of a woman bishop. This plea for the exercise of trust becomes "Compromise your conscience, and then trust us that we will not require anything more of you then your silence on the matter." If those conditions are not acceptable to opponents, then departure is the only other option available.

This is not a case of getting opponents to accept their defeat and simply soldier on. They can't accept it. They are blocked by conscience from accepting it. All provisions offered simply refuse to acknowledge this fact. It does not matter if proponents think they have offered enough. It does not matter if proponents think they are being overly generous. So long as they demand submission as the fundamental fact of any provision, they have made no provision at all. It does nothing but allow proponents to claim "We are not the cause of your departure. We tried to satisfy you, but you were not willing." This claim is made endlessly, tirelessly, but it is a fig leaf, and nothing more.

I am an American, btw. Not a member of the CoE.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary
I should be glad to be called a one-eyed Cantabrian!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
It is helpful to know you are American, not a member of the C of E and not a member of my own church.

From this I surmise that you have a set of experiences around the ordination of women and opposing it which (a) may not translate well into my own local situation (both local to ACANZP and to my diocese), but (b) may translate well into the C of E and its future, assuming their GS makes certain decisions.

I do not consider myself familiar enough with the English situation to know exactly how it will play out. I imagine that, indeed, things may vary from diocese to diocese (even from Province of Canterbury to Province of York). So, yes, your worst forebodings may come to pass.