Governing Body of the Church in Wales – April 10-11 2013So the great theological debating society which is contemporary Anglicanism begins another session. If the issues did not have such serious personal implications, it would be difficult to stifle a yawn. The issues have been already thoroughly rehearsed - at nauseam, in fact- and 'explored,' if not exactly understood, both in Wales and in numerous other places and on numerous occasions over recent years. We understand why a formal debate has to take place, given the rejection of the legislation in 2008; it is, however, hard to see how much light will be generated by yet another set-piece debate in which emotionalism and arguments from secular notions of equality will go head to head with theology. On such occasions, theology always seems to be the loser.
The ordination of women as bishops will be discussed by clergy and lay people from all over Wales at a key Church meeting next week.
Theological arguments for and against women bishops will be presented to members of the Church in Wales’ Governing Body during its two-day meeting at the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, in Lampeter, on April 10-11.
The 144 members will be put into seven groups, each facilitated by a bishop, to consider two papers – one outlining the case for the ordination of women and one setting out the case against.
The discussions are being held ahead of the introduction of a two-stage Bill to the Governing Body in September to ordain women as bishops. That legislation, however, will not be addressed by the groups next week.
The Bishop of St Asaph, Gregory Cameron, says, “It is now five years since the last time that Governing Body considered the question of the ordination of women to the episcopate, and many of its members will have changed. The bishops feel it is important that Governing Body has the opportunity to explore the theological questions behind these issues, and understand the conscientious reasons why those opposed to the ordination of women to the episcopate would not be able to accept the sacramental ministry of a woman bishop as well as the theological reasons why those in favour believe that the time is right for such as a step.”
The discussions will take place on Thursday morning from 9.30am.
But as for understanding the crucial issue - "the conscientious reasons why those opposed to the ordination of women to the episcopate would not be able to accept the sacramental ministry of a woman bishop," the arguments have also been out there for some considerable time. It will be interesting to see the papers, both for and against, which are to be presented to the groups next Thursday and judge how balanced they are.
Perhaps we should also send the bishops and others responsible for making the fateful decision a comprehensive reading list, including the stated views of our 'ecumenical partners' worldwide of the implications of a 'yes' vote and the 'internal' implications for the theological direction of the Province...
Whether the members of the Governing Body will be willing to grasp the arguments in favour of authentic and traditional apostolic order is another matter. Whether they will be prepared to act to ensure its survival in the Church in Wales is open to even more doubt. The only really interesting question in all this is whether the bishops and the G.B. will be prepared, in the face of the inevitable radical feminist lobbying, to countenance adequate pastoral and sacramental provision for those who, come what may, holding true to the catholic tradition, will remain opposed to female ordination. Any 'adequate provision' must by definition include alternative episcopal oversight by a bishop, himself 'orthodox' both in theology and practice.. That's not where negotiation begins: for traditionalists that's the bare minimum necessary. It was the sticking point last time (and the reason for the failure of the legislation) and could well be again. It is on this subject that the serious talking - and listening - needs to be done before the legislative process kicks off in earnest in September.
Please pray for all those involved.