Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Church in Wales report urges an end to the ordination of those opposed to women priests

The Report of the “Standing Committee Working Group on Representation of Women in the Church in Wales” dropped on to my doorstep this morning. It makes fascinating reading, even if I am left feeling somewhat queasy at the future it envisages.
The report is, as one might expect from such a source, heavy on sociology and somewhat light on theology (section 4.6 for those of you with a strong stomach & a taste for fiction.) Its assumptions are, purely and simply, those of liberal, secular society. (Even the U.N. Millenium Development Goals have a mention – the Atlantic Ocean narrows by the day!)
Among the comments of the Group is the following priceless paragraph. It is beyond parody:
“Church people may feel tempted to disengage from this debate about gender equality because it is difficult and they fear conflict. It can seem safer to stay with words, ideas and behaviour that are familiar. The Group looked at some difficult questions about the limits of inclusion and tolerance asking in particular who was marginalised or excluded by any theological stance that we take. It was recognised that there is a dangerous attraction for Christians who feel that their viewpoint is marginal or unpopular to regard themselves as victims”

Moving on (swiftly), among the Working Group’s detailed recommendations are the following aims:
To achieve 50% women’s representation in the Governing Body’s House of Laity by 2013 and an aim of 30% in the House of Clergy in the same period.

The authors go to recommend “gender equality understanding” in clergy training and the production of resources to be used "for training in gender awareness and confidence building, for use and promotion in our Churches, Church Schools, St Michael’s College (Llandaff) and Trinity College Carmarthen.”
Interestingly in a Province which, despite recent decisions by the Bench of Bishops, still pays lip service to a continuing place for those opposed to women’s ordination, Recommendation 5 of the Working Group asks that the recruitment of ordinands takes account of their “commitment to gender equality,” that the training of ordinands “incorporates specific gender equality awareness training,” and that “gender equality is on the agenda for the continued ministerial education of clergy and trained laity.”
The authors also (section 6.5 on page 18) make the following observation:
“The Working Group found it difficult to understand why the ordination of those opposed to the ordination of women continues in a Church committed to the ordination of women.”
They also recommend that “the use of inclusive language” (not defined, as such) in worship “is endorsed and encouraged.”
A question for the Bishops of our synodically governed and episcopally led Church in Wales: if you are genuinely committed to the survival and fair treatment of those who remain in conscience opposed to the ordination of women to the Sacred Ministry, will you oppose the detailed recommendations of the Working Group which, despite being received and welcomed by the Governing Body in September, if they were to be implemented, would result in the eradication of the “original integrity” from the life of the Province altogether?
If not, why not?

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