Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The end of rational discussion

It seems that WATCH (that should, of course,  read some Women and the Church) has given up on rational argument and discussion as to the best way forward for the Church of England in the light of last month's General Synod's rejection of the women bishops measure. It is now content simply to tell lies about misrepresent the process so far and the attitudes of its opponents.  
This is their statement [here] with the grosser 'misrepresentations' highlighted in red and comments in black.
 If a single clause measure is introduced and passed, WATCH will undoubtedly get the Church it deserves; it may not be the Church of England anyone else wants, much less needs... *

"Women clergy and supporters of their ministry have had enough of the wasteful wrangling over women bishops.  Years have been spent in trying to make legal provision that would satisfy those opposed. [ And each time a proposal has been made that would have been even partially acceptable to the minority, WATCH has declared it to be discriminatory and voted it down or lobbied to remove it from any proposed legislation] The cost in human and financial terms has been enormous. Since 2000, there have been three major church reports, and the work of a legislative drafting group, revision committee and steering committee.  General Synod has discussed the question at 10 of its meetings, and it has been debated at every level of the church.
(Full details of the progress of the debate can be found at www.churchofengland.org/our-views/women-bishops)
 The draft Measure represented the furthest possible compromise for those in favour [It was no compromise at all but a clear attempt further to marginalise and even exclude opponents from the Church altogether by failing to listen to and take into account  the grounds on which opposition was based]  It was not enough for those opposed. [Because it offered insufficient  assurance of a continuing place within the Church for traditionalists] After all these years of discussion, debate, and drafting it is clear that that there is no legal settlement that can be devised that will allow women to be bishops whilst satisfying the demands of those opposed. [Not so; the November vote made it clear that a significant minority even of those in favour of women bishops recognised the injustice of the measure then before the Synod. The principle was never at stake. But WATCH and its supporters wanted all or nothing] We therefore have to ask whether it is wise to allow the entire church to be held to ransom [by following its own established consensual procedures which would not have been questioned had the vote gone the other way] by minority factions ['Factions' who only follow what every previous generation in the Church, and a majority today worldwide, has held to be true] who resist a change that the Church of England has discerned [We had thought we were still in a process of discernment and reception] and declared to be entirely consistent with its understanding of the Christian faith. [Yet the Church of England has repeatedly stated that the traditionalist position is also consistent with its understanding of the Christian faith]  These same voices have spoken out repeatedly against any of the compromise proposed by the Church, and supported widely, including by WATCH. [Quite simply untrue; the 'rejectionists' throughout have been WATCH and its allies]
 Bishop John Gladwin said “What a small minority has done is blow up the bridge to any compromise solution. [That a bishop, even a 'retired' bishop, should be prepared to go on record as saying this kind of thing is indicative of the ethical chaos that is, sadly, modern Anglicanism... 'you tell us your truth and we'll tell you ours...except we don't want to hear what yours is...'.] There is now only one route which must be travelled to that outcome.  That is the route which removes all discriminatory provisions from the life and ministry of the Church’ [There are some interesting implications contained in that statement, please go on...]
 It is now time to go for the simplest possible legislation - a single clause measure. This would enable people to vote for or against legislation simply enabling women to be bishops.[And if the vote is lost again?]  Provision can be made at local level as appropriate for those who find this difficult. [No - not the cod psychology of "those who find this difficult," but  'for those whose theological understanding of the nature of the Church makes it impossible to accept it.' And who would decide at the local level exactly what is "appropriate?"]  This option will maintain the greatest degree of unity and open dialogue between those of differing views and prevent ghettos forming within the Church. [ The kind of 'unity and open dialogue' found at the end of the barrel of a gun] This is the way that every other Province in the Anglican Communion that has voted to ordain women as bishops has chosen to proceed. [Yes, take a look at TEC in the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada - intent on driving out all who disagree in any way with the prevailing ideology] 
 It is also time for honesty in this debate. [Time for some name-calling] Those opposed do not want women bishops. They do not want resolution of the issue but to extend the decision-making process as long as possible. [Again, not so - with proper provision for opponents this could have been settled months ago]  We cannot see how further conversation will result in any proposals that have not been tested and rejected before.[By you] They will simply prolong the process [Not if the proponents are prepared to be flexible] With the disproportionate number of conservatives in the House of Laity, the nature of the internal debate within the church has been so weighted to accommodating small minorities [not that small - between 20 and 25%] that we have lost sight of the legislation’s main objective – to make women bishops. We are now in a changed landscape. [Therefore past promises to traditionalists have no validity and can honourably be withdrawn?] It is clear from the debates in Parliament and the response in the country at large [We must always conform the Church to the values of the world?] that those outside the church are scandalised by the acceptance of gender discrimination in the established church. [Establishment is irrelevant to this - it doesn't mean what they and the politicians think it means]  As Helen Goodman MP said in the emergency Commons debate on 22nd November,
             “too many concessions have been made to those who are opposed to women priests…  It is simply unjust to do that at the expense of women in the Church.”  [In what way would those provisions be at the expense of women in the Church, even ordained women in the Church? They would simply allow for the continuation of a view which affirms traditional orthodoxy - which is also the traditional orthodoxy of those who have, until recently, been Anglicanism's major ecumenical partners.]
 For the sake of the future of the church we need to act swiftly and unequivocally to make women bishops without any discrimination in law. WATCH urges the House of Bishops to recommend a single clause measure be returned to Synod in July with the aim of getting Final Approval in a newly elected Synod. [Where the elections have been so rigged or gerrymandered arranged so as to exclude the possibility of a 'no' vote]
 In the meantime, it is imperative that women are present at the discussions of the House of Bishops in December and beyond. [In order to bully and hector the House of Bishops even further, or to play shamelessly on the bishops' already overdeveloped and, in this case, entirely misplaced, sense of liberal guilt? It is never possible to achieve 'justice' for one group at the expense of another; this is now the dilemma facing an ecclesial body in which by ill-conceived constitutional tinkering we have brought about the situation that  theological 'truth' can be, and is,  determined by majority vote.] We call on the bishops to open their proceedings to the public and invite senior women to play a full part in their discussions. As Diana Johnson MP said in February 2012
             “It is inconceivable to anyone engaged in equality and diversity work in other contexts [Again they are seeking validation from purely secular models] that the Church would make decisions about consecrating women as bishops without seriously engaging during this last phase with those who will be most directly affected by the decision.” [That would apply also to traditionalists  so presumably it's all right for them to be present, too. How about traditionalist women being allowed to attend?]
 The Reverend Rachel Weir, Chair of WATCH said 
             “We have spent enough time [Clearly not enough time - the measure failed to pass, as many predicted] in exploring how to accommodate the views of those who do not want women as bishops. [Who do not believe - with the rest of  'catholic' Christianity - that women can be bishops; it's not at all a question of likes and dislikes - something the secular post-modernists in WATCH fail to understand] Generosity is laudable but without limits it becomes a kind of profligacy. [That says it all: in any case, how can there be limits to WATCH's generosity when they have not even begun to express any. There seems to be something in the Gospels about what we might call 'profligacy of generosity.' ] We are wasting the Church’s precious resources, both its money and its people [What about those people who will simply be unchurched by a single-clause measure? They are not the sort of people WATCH wants in C of E congregations even if the church is dependent upon their money for its survival]  if we seek to continue the debate about provision in law. The House of Bishops must act decisively now to legislate for women bishops in the simplest possible way.”
[A measure could have been passed as long ago as last July - without all the current mayhem and public relations disaster - if WATCH and its fellow travellers had listened to the Archbishops and were not so intent to hold on to their feminist ideological purity at all costs. However, one is forced to wonder whether the current situation is not far more to their liking than any measure which would have enabled traditionalists to remain securely in what is, after all, their church, too.

* There are those who justify their support for, or their acquiescence in, the ordination of women by asserting that these are 'second order' issues which do not affect the essential nature of the Church or of Christian belief. If that really were the case, (as Archbishop Williams himself has gone so far as to argue, in, of all places, Rome itself,) why is it that now in western Anglicanism support for women's ordination is the sole proposition to which one has to assent in order to keep away the wrath of the hierarchy and soon, it seems, in order to survive as an Anglican at all?


  1. I personally would expect nothing less from the retired Bishop of Chelmsford. As for Watch, they have consistently failed to even try to understand the Catholic point of view and have opposed any scheme which would be even minimally acceptable to Anglo-Catholics.

  2. Good job 'fisking' their statement, Father. It is hard not to wonder if the intransigence of WATCH on this matter is not playing 'the long game' - a deliberate attempt to exclude from the CofE those who will resist the future radical changes which are doubtless part of their agenda ...

  3. I think - and suggested some time ago to +Cantuar: in a letter - that the problem with Ms Rees and her colleagues is not that they are deliberately uncharitable. Rather, so thick is their carapace of victimhood that they can't recognise that they've won. In fact, they've won so comprehensively that three of the four prelates designated to look after us by the archbishops have decided that the game is up and have swum the Tiber. If they don't recognise that they have won, they will not feel any inclination to be magnanimous in victory.

    I just hope that the replacement flying bishops and FiF have something ready when we reach the almost inevitable breaking point of the ordination of women bishops with no acceptable structure in place for those opposed to the innovation.


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