Thursday 18 September 2008

Reactions to the Statement

The Chairman of Credo Cymru, Forward in Faith Wales, The Revd Alan Rabjohns, commenting on the statement yesterday that the Bench of Bishops would not be appointing a replacement Provincial Assistant Bishop, said

‘This is a disappointing and sad statement. We particularly regret that it comes from an incomplete Bench, giving those to be appointed to the dioceses of Bangor and St Asaph over the next months no say in the matter. We reject the claim that such an appointment is unnecessary and do not regard what was said yesterday as the final word on this subject.’

Fr Geoffrey Kirk, on behalf of Forward in Faith U.K., said this

“The decision of the House of Bishops of the Church in Wales to discontinue the role of Provincial Assistant Bishop for those who in conscience cannot accept the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate will have inevitable consequences in the Church of England. We are repeatedly told that the future for those opposed to women’s ordination is one of trust in provisions made and confidence that our position will be respected and upheld by the majority. To describe the role of a Provincial Assistant bishop – one effectively brokered by the Archbishop of Canterbury when he was Bishop of Monmouth - as ‘unnecessary and inconsistent with Anglican ecclesiology’, as the Archbishop of Wales has done, is deliberately to undermine both that trust and Dr Williams’ leadership of the Anglican Communion during this time of crisis.”

A statement from the Bishops of the Church in Wales

We reaffirm as Diocesan Bishops our commitment to securing a continuing place in the life of the Church in Wales for those who cannot in conscience accept the ordination of women to the priesthood. However, we no longer consider that the continuation of additional episcopal provision for one part of the Church on grounds of belief or doctrine on one particular issue is either necessary or consistent with Anglican ecclesiology. All Church in Wales clergy and parishes are in communion with their respective Diocesan Bishop, regardless of whether or not they agree on every issue. Episcopal oversight and care for all within each Diocese is the responsibility of the Diocesan Bishop.

There remains a continuing place in the Church in Wales for those unable to accept the ministry of women priests, but we do not believe that this is contingent upon appointing another Provincial Assistant Bishop and it is therefore our decision not to appoint. Whilst bringing a particular arrangement to an end, we remain committed to serving every person and every parish within our respective Dioceses and we will continue to be sensitive in our appointments, both in terms of the views of parishes and in ensuring that clergy from different parts of the Church are given the opportunity to progress in their ministry.”

Outside the writings of George Orwell it's hard to find a better example of "Newspeak."
Essentially, they seem to be saying, 'we will do all we can to keep you within the Church in Wales except the very thing we know you require in order to stay.' In what way can this be distinguished from actually telling lies?
If, as is asserted by the bishops (an incomplete bench of bishops), the appointment of a Provincial Assistant in some way contravenes that very elastic theological concept, "Anglican ecclesiology" then how does the ordination of women to the Sacred Ministry fit in? Of course, words mean what we want them to mean. We have become very used to this kind of misuse of language over recent years in all walks of life, but somehow (and I know it's naive) one expected better things of the Church.
I know, too, that is not a particularly charitable reaction, as I have just read the news, but the Bishops' statement has the word 'dishonourable' running through it like a stick of Barry Island rock.