Excellent points made here at Episcopal Cafe re the recent controversy over the appointment of Philip North to be Bishop of Sheffield (subsequently withdrawn from by Philip North himself).
We can be all things to all Anglicans - sort of - but, actually, there are "limits to diversity", toleration within certain degrees only. As English Baptists and Dissenters once found out.
This paragraph, from the declaration of Bishops belonging to the Church of England 'Society of SS Hilda and Wilfrid', has these words to say"
"We can therefore only commend the sacramental ministry of male priests who have been ordained by a validly ordained bishop (that is, a male bishop who stands in the historic apostolic succession of bishops at whose episcopal ordination a male bishop presided).”
- Bishops of Society of SS Hilda & Wilfrid -
As Bishop Philip North is a Member of this exotic A.XC. Society, how could he possibly live with the fact of presiding episcopally over a diocese which has women priest? This is surely a serious matter for his conscience. Short of Resigning from the Society, how could he fulfil both commitments - to the Society and as a Bishop of a diocese in the Church of England which ordains women clergy?
Peter, this is a pretty good example of the way those embittered at one pole see things. But all that the Church needs to affirm in these matters is that a gospel church may not interpose anything whatever-- let alone a local theory of gender politics-- between God's saving sacraments and the souls he wills to save.
"...traditionalists have been unable to answer, theologically, the challenge of how someone who holds to their opposition to women’s ordination can possibly share in ministry with ordained women."
Of course they can. There are only three traditionalist positions.
(1) One might believe that OW is an adiaphoron, matter of policy dependent on time, place, and context. In that case, one can disbelieve that it was the best choice where one serves, but still want the women actually ordained to share the Word.
(2) Or one might believe that OW may be an ontological mistake made by a church temporarily deaf to the Bible's metaphysic as many Anglo-Catholics long believed about Cranmer's eucharistic rite. In that case, one could believe, as those earlier Anglo-Catholics did, that God will allow for the errors of his church, but that one must keep oneself clear of them.
(3) Finally, one might believe that OW is altogether sound, but that laymen who doubt this on the basis of scripture or tradition are in danger of not relying on the sacramental assurance that God has provided. In that case, one has confidence in the women in ministry, but regard a masculine lineage in that ministry as a necessary accommodation for endangered souls.
None of these three positions commits one to hope that women will fail in their ministry, or entails a conviction that they necessarily will. But they do require clergy to recognise the complexity of the scriptural witness to the Father's intentions in creation. Surely the CoE is not ordaining women who are unfamiliar with this?
And let calm minds note that even the ACNA has some dioceses with ordained women and some dioceses without. I occasionally meet women who say that their ministries are flourishing there, and have no reason to doubt them. Others will have other gossip from other friends, no doubt, but the fact remains that the ACNA attempts an accommodation that other churches seem afraid to make. Perhaps they too might give charity in Christ a try?
"As bishops, it is our duty to offer those committed to our charge sacramental assurance that when they receive communion in one of our parishes they do indeed receive Christ’s body and blood, and to follow the safest course where the sacraments are concerned. We can therefore only commend..."
This is the pure logic of the Augsburg Confession. Given the reality of God's awesome mercy for sinners, but also the danger to the faithful of not fully believing and trusting in that mercy, his purpose in ordaining sacraments and clergy is to give each particular soul the most certain assurance of that mercy. When the faithful discover a doubt that endangers their souls in the plain Word of God itself, a church must make some accommodation. That is what Luther demanded of the papacy in C16 Augsburg, and what the Society of SS Hilda and Wilfrid demands of the Church of England today.
If any reject this argument then, as Luther did, we might ask what part of this it they disbelieve. Do they disbelieve--
(a) God's mercy?
(b) The danger to the faithful of not fully trusting God?
(c) God's purpose in instituting the sacraments?
(d) God's purpose in instituting the ministry?
(e) The scriptural origin of the reasonable doubt?
(f) The priority of the salvation of souls?
Probably (f). Which is ironic, because Luther's logic was also the original rationale for OW itself. There are women, we were rightly told, who for many involuntary reasons cannot receive a sacramental assurance of God's mercy from men. To their own minds, this inability arises from the contrast between Jesus's recorded friendship with women and the perceived alienation of male clergy from women. Therefore, for the salvation of the souls of such women, churches must make an accommodation for them. The simplest such accommodation is to ordain women so that the sacrament assures them. There it is again-- the argument that we just heard from the Society of SS Hilda and Wilfrid.
Serene readers will already have noticed four things about these arguments that zealots more attuned to the culture wars than to the gospel may never understand at all--
(i) For their standing with the reader, the two arguments rely on the eternal gospel revealed by God in scripture, and taught in our churches by all who believe until the end of time. They are not based on the merely secular political principles of "freedom, toleration, and equal respect" on which non-believers understandably rely.
(ii) Because both arguments are gospel-grounded, both warrant the obedience of all the faithful. A believer who decides on the basis of the gospel has strong reason to favour accommodate both views whether s/he is personally more animated by the Song of Songs and Revelation 21 or by a Mist of Avalon hatred of the historic Church.
(iii) A duty of charity-- in some places, a willingness to let past injuries be healed-- necessarily follows. In England, the wounds of a generation-long battle over OW have not healed, and as I have said in Fulcrum, they will not heal until the CoE's armies have de-mobilised and their war-time leaders have passed from the scene.
(iv) Although polemicists often shout otherwise, when we act on the basis of the gospel, accommodations that we make for the sake of charity do not implicate us in what the objects of charity believe. Personally, I think that much of the old feminist suspicion of the historic Church was anachronistic and shallow, but I understand its plausibility for some, and am very happy to see women thriving in ministry today. Similarly, I do not believe that the sexual theme of the Bible's cosmology precludes gifted women from ordination, but neither do I not begrudge others the ministry that some understandings of that cosmology inspire.
“...the so-called X are the ones clinging to orthodoxy and tradition, and the Y are appealing to liberal principles of freedom, toleration, and equal respect. Lacking a strong theological basis for their position, the Y are behaving like relativists who believe their position must be upheld not because it is true but just because it is their identity.”
The identity of Y plainly depends on which ox is being gored, although the zealots among us have an understandably difficult time seeing this. What difference of standing is there between an Anglo-Catholic trying to conserve a masculine lineage in holy orders and an Anglican liberal trying to exorcise masculinity and femininity from marriage? Both have lost. And in defeat, both resort to worldly arguments-- Linda Woodhead's "freedom, toleration, and equal respect"-- not from relativism, but because they do not have any Christian convictions, but because they cannot find shared theological ground on which to explain them to others.
After all, that has not a little to do with why they lost. St Thomas's quodlibital questions and the latest edgy Routledge book on queer theory are not often stacked on the same bedside tables. For that matter, neither sort of book shares space with the Bible and some first-rate commentary as often as might be helpful.
And that brings us back to the see of Sheffield. You will have guessed already that I agree little with either Philip North's critics or his defenders. No Anglican church is well served by snowflakes that melt at the mere thought that a bishop of another background might not have ordained them. And some of the usual critics sound like warlords afraid that their influence will wain if peace breaks out. But if + Philip holds any of the three (3) irenic views of OW listed above, then why oh why did he not just say so? Absent his actual views, a weird and useless debate began about what- his- enemies- think- that- they- will- feel- if- he- actually- thinks- about- them- what- they- think- that- they- would- think- about- themselves- if- they- thought- what- they- think- that- he- thinks- about- OW? Controversy does not get more narcissistic than that. On both sides, pretty bad disagreement.
Even after your (very) extensive commentary on this thread, I, at least, am left quite unsure about your own belief on the ontological situation of those women who have actually been ordained into various Anglican Churches around the world.
From my comment, above, you will see I have no doubts about the ordination of women, as co-sharers (with men) in the humanity of Christ, to represent Him at the altar in sacramental ministry.
Your concern about the two different views of those who either defend or oppose the appointment of Bishop Philip North as the C. of E. diocesan Bishop of Sheffield seems to indicate that - for you - both views are theologically valid - a situation predicated by the "two integrities" stance of the Church of England that is desperately trying to accommodate two very different theologies in their 'Unity in Diversity' schedule.
This proved unsatisfactory in the situation of 'Flying Bishops' (that 'rara avis') of former times that was hastily improvised early in the piece by the C. of E., which has now been largely discontinued, presumably on theological grounds.
My own belief is that a separate setup - such as a separate diocese/province of the Church of England - to accommodate members of the esoteric 'Society of SS Hilda and Wilfrid' (which Bishop Philip North belongs to), in order to allow them to continue in communion with their parent Church.
Whether this matter is doctrinal or adiaphora, it has already been taken care of by the Canons of the Church of England which is incumbent on all its clergy. - in matters of the facilitation of the ordained ministry of the C. of E. Women are canonically ordained within that Church!
Dear Bowman; you exercise our little grey cells worthily. Thank you for dragging us to the likes of Rom 12:1-2.
Thank you, Father Ron, for your thoughtful attention. If my self-editing had been as careful as your reading, you would probably have seen my position clearly.
So first, corrections of a few of the several infelicities.
4:34, at (ii). The last sentence should read: A believer who decides on the basis of the gospel has strong reason to accommodate both views whether s/he is personally more animated by the Song of Songs and Revelation 21 or else by a Mist of Avalon hatred of the historic Church.
4:34, at (iv). The last sentence should read: Similarly, I do not believe that the sexual theme of the Bible's cosmology precludes gifted women from ordination, but neither do I begrudge others the [masculine] ministry that some understandings of that cosmology inspire.
4:36, second paragraph. The last sentence should read: And in defeat, both [an Anglo-Catholic trying to conserve a masculine lineage in holy orders and an Anglican liberal trying to exorcise masculinity and femininity from marriage] resort to worldly arguments-- Linda Woodhead's "freedom, toleration, and equal respect"-- not from relativism, NOR because they do not have any Christian convictions, but because they cannot find shared theological ground on which to explain [their convictions] to others.
"... I, at least, am left quite unsure about your own belief on the ontological situation of those women who have actually been ordained into various Anglican Churches around the world."
Father Ron, if you can make sense of the three sorts of traditionalists described at 4:29, you would probably class my view with (3). My Protestant conviction that the ontology of the gospel is what ultimately enables all else to fall into place is probably unfamiliar even to Peter's readers, except for those who read Bryden's comments very carefully.
"...for you - both views are theologically valid - a situation predicated by the *two integrities* stance of the Church of England that is desperately trying to accommodate two very different theologies in their *Unity in Diversity* schedule. This proved unsatisfactory in the situation of *Flying Bishops*..."
Father Ron, both sides of OW have entangled themselves with some positions that cannot be fully assimilated to Anglican practise, and that is why the *two integrities* have tended to disintegrate. In contrast, Reformation centrism grounded in the apostles, fathers, and councils is a single integrity that can accommodate both practises on the basis of the gospel.
"My own belief is that a separate setup - such as a separate diocese/province of the Church of England - to accommodate members of the esoteric 'Society of SS Hilda and Wilfrid' (which Bishop Philip North belongs to), in order to allow them to continue in communion with their parent Church."
Father Ron, have you agreed with Gerald Bray before? He long ago proposed *diocesan peculiars* in which participating parishes, schools, monasteries, etc throughout the CoE would be overseen by one diocese with a male succession (or, for that matter, a female one) in each province. The parishes peculiar to these sees would negotiate relationships with the dioceses and deaneries in which they are geographically situated, but would also collaborate and evolve over time with the rest of their dispersed diocese.
Thanks, Bowman, for your painstaking and careful consideration of the matters arising from my comment, above.
The Body of Christ (encompassing all Believers, regardless of denominational loyalty, who subscribe to the traditional Apostles' and the Nicene Creeds) is, I believe One in Christ, while yet diverse in their theological praxis.
However, theological coherence would seem to be required of each denomination in their peculiar vision of the Gospel. The Sheffield case would seem to require a certain discipline with regard to the pastoral oversight of the diocesan bishop. Either he believes his clergy to be competent and duly authorized for their priestly function - or not. He just can't have it both ways. He surely must choose his loyalty: either to the Society of SS Hilda and Wilfred - which doesn't recognize the priestly ministry of women - or to the Church of England which authorizes their (and his) ministry.
Father Ron, I am sympathetic to much that you say in your comment of 1:05, but should + Philip North and the Society of SS Hilda and Wilfred affirm that the faithful can rely on God's fidelity to the promises he makes in baptism and communion, even if the minister of them is a woman, they will have exhibited gospel coherence. What more than that should be required?
Ha! A VERY subtle response, Bwman. However, it may presume to include the possibility that Bishop Philip and the Society's Bishops would only go ahead if they presumed that 'the Minister' (a Woman) was merely 'unworthy'. But would that fit their own criteria for the adequacy of a woman's sacramental ministry?
The subtlety, Father Ron, is that while the authoritative C16 theologies in the West viewed sacraments and ministry in relation to personal salvation, we are open to, but officially undecided about, further meanings derived from the apocalyptic frame of our faith better conserved in the East. One could reasonably believe that the sex of the minister does not matter in the old Western framework, but does matter in the old Eastern one.
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