Thursday, 22 November 2012

Prepare to be shocked...

by the debate on Women Bishops in the House of Commons today. 
These are the strident and arrogant voices of a despotic majoritarian culture which, it is becoming clearer by the hour, will stop at nothing in order to subordinate the Gospel - and everything else which stands in the way - to the secular values of the day. 
I make no apologies for reproducing this stuff at length, despite the theological and constitutional idiocy it contains. 
But, as someone has commented to me: 'Women 'bishops' will happen, the ruling classes are determined on that.'
Amusingly, another friend has just pointed out that Sir Tony Baldry was arguing in the House of Commons in favour of women bishops while wearing a Garrick Club tie! 
Perhaps when we are thrown out of the Church we could rent a nice duck house on an M.P.'s moat...

Read on and be appalled......

Women Bishops

10.31 am
Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)
(Urgent Question): Will the Second Church Estates Commissioner make a statement on this week’s decision by the General Synod on women bishops?
The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Tony Baldry):
Yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury made it clear at the General Synod of the Church of England that the Church of England could not afford to “hang about” over the issue of women bishops and observed starkly that
“every day that we fail to resolve this issue…is a day when our credibility in the public eye is likely to diminish”.
Justin Welby, the Bishop of Durham and the next Archbishop of Canterbury, said:
“The Church has voted overwhelmingly in favour of the principle. It is a question of finding a way that…is the right way forward.”
It is important for the House to recognise that there is overwhelming support in the Church of England for women bishops to be consecrated. The draft Measure rejected earlier this week was supported by clear majorities in 42 of the 44 dioceses in England. As I have repeatedly said, it is impossible for me to explain to parliamentary colleagues how a Measure that has had the clear support of 42 out of 44 dioceses failed to pass in the General Synod. Let us take all the votes passed in the General Synod: 324 members voted for women bishops, and 122 against; 94% of the bishops who voted on Tuesday supported the Measure, as did 77% of the House of Clergy; and even in the House of Laity, 64% were in favour. The Measure was lost by a handful of votes among the laity, because for the Measure to pass it had to clear the hurdle of a two-thirds majority in each House of the General Synod.
Speaking for the whole House, I am sure, my right hon. Friend and fellow Church Commissioner, the Prime Minister, made it clear to the House yesterday that the
“Church needs to get on with it, as it were, and get with the programme”—[Official Report, 21 November 2012; Vol. 553, c. 579.]
He observed that the Church of England needed a “sharp prod”.
I appreciate that frustrations exist in the House on this matter—a frustration that I share—and I think that the following needs to be understood. First, this is not an issue that can in any way be parked for the next couple of years or so, while we await another round of Synod elections. It must be understood that this issue needs to be resolved as soon as possible. I hope that it will be convenient for the House if I seek to arrange a meeting in the near future for concerned Members, together with the Bishop of Durham, the archbishop-designate, to explore how this matter can be resolved as speedily as possible.
There have been some suggestions in the press that it is impossible for the Church of England or General Synod to return to this issue until after a new General Synod has been elected in 2015. That is not correct: the rules prevent the same Measure from being reconsidered by the General Synod without a special procedure. It is perfectly possible for a different and amended Measure to consecrate women bishops to be considered by the General Synod. Although this is for the Church of England to resolve, as the Prime Minister made clear yesterday, I suspect that there will also be those in the Church of England who will wish to consider whether the election process to the General Synod is sufficiently representative, particularly of the laity of the Church of England, as Tuesday’s vote clearly did not reflect the overall and clear consensus of dioceses across England in support of women bishops.
It is my earnest hope that during the time I serve the Queen—whose appointment I am—this House and the Church of England as Second Church Estates Commissioner it will prove possible for me to bring before this House a Measure that will enable women to be consecrated bishops in the Church of England.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his response to the urgent question, and I know that he is as disappointed as I am at having to speak on this matter today. May I also thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to raise this important matter on the Floor of the House today?
It appears to me and many others that the theological arguments over women priests—and therefore their position in roles of authority—were settled 20 years ago in the Church of England. The next natural step, on which I think there is agreement across the House, is to see some of the excellent ordained women priests now move into positions of leadership in our Church as bishops. Just as discrimination in the wider community is wrong, as it keeps the talents and abilities of all from flourishing, so it is important in the established Church that the talents, experience and skills of both men and women are used and that the Church is led by the very best, not just those who happen to be male. There should be no stained glass ceiling for women in our Church.
The Church of England now stands to be left behind by the society it seeks to serve and made to look outdated, irrelevant and frankly eccentric by this decision. It appears that a broad Church is being held to ransom by a few narrow minds, but as the hon. Gentleman said, the vast majority of members of the Church want to see women bishops. He set out clearly the votes that were cast at both diocesan and General Synod level. I was pleased to hear him say that there are questions to be asked about the convoluted decision-making structure in the Church, and in particular about the representative nature of the House of Laity, and whether an overhaul of the electoral system needs to be considered. The decision made by an unrepresentative minority in the House of Laity means that this essential modernisation of the Church of England has potentially been put back for another five years or more, with no guarantee of progress even then.
In fact, I think positions will become even more difficult. Many campaigners felt that they had offered concessions to accommodate those of different views and will perhaps now take a much less conciliatory approach, as they feel that the concessions have been ignored, with no willingness to compromise. As the Church of England is part of the constitutional settlement of this country, it is important that Parliament has regard to what the decision means for the country and the Church’s role in law making. With the decision made, we now see the entrenchment of the discriminatory nature of the 26 places in the upper House reserved for Bishops, who can only be male. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that this cannot be right, and that Parliament and the Government have to consider what we should do, especially in light of the Government’s decision to abandon any wider reform of the Lords? Does he further agree that we must also consider whether the exemption from equalities legislation for the Church of England now needs to be re-examined?
Finally, I am pleased to hear the hon. Gentleman’s resolve on the need to sort this out as soon as possible, as well as what the Archbishop of Canterbury said. I understand that there will be moves by the Church to spend some time thinking about how to proceed, but it is imperative that those in the all-male group of bishops do not talk just to one another, but work with and alongside senior women in the Church to find a way forward. Unlike the Prime Minister, I think Parliament has a role to play and should now look at doing all it can to support the Church at this time. I hope that the hon. Gentleman agrees.
Sir Tony Baldry:
I agree with almost all that the hon. Lady said. The really important point is that the whole House wants the Church of England to get on with this matter. It cannot be parked, and work needs to be done urgently to try to ensure that it is resolved as quickly as possible. In fairness, the House of Bishops gave the greatest possible leadership in the General Synod. However, as I sat there, the analogy that struck me was that it was a bit like Government Whips trying to talk to the Eurosceptics; there were those in the General Synod who, whatever the bishops said to them, were just not going to listen. So, in fairness, the House of Bishops in an episcopal-led Church was very clear about the need to make change. Those bishops work every day with women clergy in their dioceses and see the fantastic work that they are doing in the Church of England. That work must be valued and cherished, and we need to ensure that any changes do not square the circle by bringing forth proposals for women bishops who would be second-class bishops. I have made it clear to the General Synod on a number of occasions that Parliament simply would not approve any Measure that introduced women bishops as second-class bishops.
Mrs Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest) (Con):
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the whole House has sympathy with his position and great respect for the hard work that he has done in trying to resolve this matter. Does he agree that when the decision-making body of the established Church deliberately sets itself against the general principles of the society that it represents, its position as the established Church must be called into question?
Sir Tony Baldry:
The hon. Lady makes a perfectly good point, and it is one that I have repeatedly made. As a consequence of the decision by the General Synod, the Church of England no longer looks like a national Church; it simply looks like a sect, like any other sect. If it wishes to be a national Church that reflects the nation, it has to reflect the values of the nation.
Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab):
I thank the hon. Gentleman for doing a wonderful, and rather thankless, job on this issue over the years on behalf of parliamentarians. He was at the very stormy meeting yesterday between parliamentarians and the bishops. Peers and MPs of all parties were saying with one voice that if the Church does not get on and do this, Parliament will. Will he therefore convene an emergency meeting of the Ecclesiastical Committee, so that we can take legal advice as to what Parliament can do to help the Church to achieve the will of the people in the Church?
Sir Tony Baldry:
It was because of yesterday’s meeting, and because I am conscious of the concerns being expressed on both sides of the House, that I would like to convene a meeting with the archbishop-designate. Justin Welby has great leadership skills, and it is he who will have to lead the Church of England in this matter. He needs to hear the voices from the House of Lords and the House of Commons that were heard in that meeting yesterday. We need to funnel our energies into helping him to resolve the matter.
Simon Hughes (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (LD):
Thank you for granting the urgent question, Mr Speaker.
Can we all send our support, love and concern to all women who are ordained or hope to be ordained in the Church—including your chaplain, Mr Speaker, and all others? They must feel even more frustrated than we do, but we are not going to let them down. Given that, over the past 20 years, the Church has managed to sort out how parishes that did not want women priests could be looked after, does the Second Church Estates Commissioner not agree that it must be possible to resolve this issue? Will he invite the Minister for Women and Equalities to offer the services of the Government, not to tell the Church what to do but to offer it professional advice on how to deliver what the majority want, as soon as possible?
Sir Tony Baldry:
I am sure that it must be possible to resolve this issue. The important thing is to continue to work at it until it is resolved. An increasing number of ordinands coming into the Church are women, and we need to have a Church in which everyone is valued. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is correct is saying that, at present, a number of women out there in the clergy are feeling undervalued. That is wrong; they are very much valued and cherished, and there needs to be a full place for them in our national Church.
Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab):
Since I was ordained as a priest in the Church of England 25 years ago, women have become vicars, rectors, deans, rural deans and even archdeacons, so it is ludicrous that they cannot now become bishops. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that we will have no truck with more concessions to the hard-liners who want to make women second-rate bishops. We need to speed this up. Would it not make sense to have a moratorium on the appointment of any more male bishops until there could also be women bishops—no nomination without feminisation?
Sir Tony Baldry:
Of course, we could have done that if the Prime Minister still had control over the appointment of bishops.
Mr Bradshaw:
Take it back then.
Sir Tony Baldry:
It was of course the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) as Prime Minister who, without any proper consultation, renounced the ability of Downing street to have any influence over the control of bishops. I am encouraged by the suggestions from Labour Members that the Prime Minister should take back the power to appoint bishops, but I suspect that might create a few problems. I think everyone will have heard the point made by the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant).
Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con):
I think my hon. Friend was wrong in what he said about the Eurosceptics, because the Eurosceptics happen to be right. The important point, which I hope he will accept, is that it is not for this House to say how the established Church is run. We may well have our own opinion, but it is a very dangerous thing for the House of Commons to tell the established Church how to run itself.
Sir Tony Baldry:
I say, in all friendship to my hon. Friend, that as I sat through the debates in General Synod, it struck me that the Eurosceptics and the conservative evangelicals had quite a lot in common in their approach. Nevertheless, he makes a serious point on which the House should reflect. Since 1919, it has been the convention that although Parliament has the ultimate control over the Church of England—it is an established Church, after all, and the Book of Common Prayer is but an annexe to the Act of Uniformity—the Church of England comes forward with its Measures, and if they are passed by the Church of England they will be approved or otherwise by Parliament. I am sure my hon. Friend will understand that if the Church of England is a national Church and an established Church, it is right and proper for Parliament to make clear its views and opinions to the Church of England and for the Church of England to hear what Parliament is saying.
I am not involved with the Church of England and I am a lifelong non-believer, but I want to say to the hon. Gentleman, whom I greatly admire for the stance he has taken, that it is simply impossible to understand how on earth it can be argued that if women are considered appropriate to be deacons and priests, as they have been in the last 20 years, they are not worthy to be bishops. It is simply impossible to understand that. Will the hon. Gentleman also accept that, for many of us, this opposition to women bishops bears comparison with the opposition 100 years ago to women having the right to vote and to sit in the House of Commons? It is an anti-women attitude—a feeling that women have no place in public life, in religion or in politics—that I find contemptible.
Sir Tony Baldry:
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. In fairness, if he reads the comments made by the Archbishop of Canterbury yesterday, he will find that the archbishop said exactly the same as him—that it is intolerable to have a situation where women can be priests, deacons, archdeacons and deans, yet not be bishops. In his own way, the hon. Gentleman is saying almost exactly the same as the Archbishop of Canterbury about this intolerable situation.
Claire Perry (Devizes) (Con):
Probably not for the first time, I find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) and in disagreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone). I think that we are elected on a far more democratic basis than the House of Laity.
I believe that there is very strong support for this Measure both in my constituency and in that of my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (John Glen). We share the most extraordinary Dean of Salisbury Cathedral, in the shape of the Rev. June Osborne. May we please urge the bishops to adopt the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Rhondda of a moratorium? It is in their control. They could do it themselves. I know that it would be a complicated process, but it would be less complicated than the fiendish voting structure that we saw yesterday.
If you will forgive me, Mr. Speaker, may I add that my heart goes out to those women who will be standing up on Sunday and doing, in many cases, a superior job of bringing people to God and bringing the comfort of Christianity to their constituents? This is disgraceful. Please could we all share in some sort of message of support? There will be change. We are behind this change. It has to happen.
Sir Tony Baldry:
I am sure that women throughout the Church will have heard the encouraging comments of my hon. Friend, and those of, I think, every other Member who has spoken so far.
Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab):
I joined the Movement for the Ordination of Women in 1976, and I find it incredible that we are still having this argument 36 years later. I am very pleased that the Second Church Estates Commissioner understands our feelings about the urgent need for this Measure.
May I suggest that too many concessions have been made to those who are opposed to women priests? That is what has given them hope, and it is why they have continued to fight. It is simply unjust to do that at the expense of women in the Church.
Sir Tony Baldry:
The hon. Lady’s comments demonstrate the difficulty of striking a balance between various groups in the Church of England, and trying to ensure that everyone feels that there is a continuing place for them in the Church. It has always been a broad Church, and as far as possible we want to keep everyone in that broad Church. However, I assure the hon. Lady that I know, and the House has made very clear, that Parliament simply would not pass a Measure that discriminated against women, squaring the circle by trying to make them bishops but second-class bishops. Everyone has to understand that.
David Tredinnick (Bosworth) (Con):
I think it important for Parliament to express a view, but I also think that it would be better for us to pass a short Bill requiring female bishops. We need to put the Church out of its agony, and to end the antiquated voting system to which my hon. Friend has referred.
Is my hon. Friend aware that there is nothing new about female bishops? There is a ninth-century mosaic in a Roman basilica showing two saints, who are named, the Virgin Mary, and a fourth woman who is clearly described as Bishop Theodora: Theodora Episcopa. She was a female bishop. The Church has had them in the past....
And much, much, more [here]

This is the ending of John Keble's Assize Sermon, on 'National Apostasy', preached at the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford, on July 14th, 1833. Today we must feel that it is as if the intervening years had never occured...
"These cautions being duly observed, I do not see how any person can devote himself too entirely to the cause of the Apostolical Church in these realms. There may be, as far as he knows, but a very few to sympathize with him. He may have to wait long, and very likely pass out of this world before he see any abatement in the triumph of disorder and irreligion. But, if he be consistent, he possesses, to the utmost, the personal consolations of a good Christian : and as a true Churchman, he has that encouragement, which no other cause in the world can impart in the same degree:—he is calmly, soberly, demonstrably, SURE, that, sooner or later, HIS WILL BE THE WINNING SIDE, and that the victory will be complete, universal, eternal.
He need not fear to look upon the efforts of anti-Christian powers, as did the holy Apostles themselves, who welcomed the first persecution in the words of the Psalmist:
'Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?
'The kings of the earth stand up, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His Anointed.
'For of a truth against Thy Holy Child Jesus, Whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,


  1. Appalling is right. One of the dangers of being a national church. But isn't it interesting that so many of the arguments put forward in Synod in favour of the measure seem to differ not a whit from those being made by the secular parliament ...

  2. Gorham multiplied by a thousand.

    Don't Gerald Ellison's words from 1972, as quoted in the article linked below, now echo loudly.

  3. If anyone wished to be convinced of the thoroughly Erastian nature of the CofE this should dispel any doubts.

  4. This is a wake up call. The Church of England is a political settlement and not Catholic. Cardinal Manning saw this in the 19th century and many more have come to the conclusion he did. More recent Court cases have strengthened the "Establishment's" hand. There are always going to be problems for the church and I fear there is only one conclusion for anybody and that is to seek the nearest Catholic Bishop - it has happened throughout history.


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