Clarify the question of women as bishops, please.
November 29, 2012 6:31 PM   Subscribe

Where can I find reputable analysis of and background on the General Synod of the Church of England's rejection (well, the House of Laity's rejection, anyhow) of a change in canon law allowing women to become bishops?

Although I am aware of the decision, I know little to nothing about the C. of E., its various factions, and of the internal debates and discussion surrounding the recent proposal to allow women to be appointed as bishops. This short piece from The New Yorker was a help, but I'd like to know more.

Are there blogs by supporters or detractors? Opinion pieces worth reading? Analysis of what might happen next? How does the Anglo-Catholic angle work here? What's the history of women's ordination in the C. of E.? Will this rejection be taken up by the state? Historically, when canon law is changed, how has that change been documented internally (Is something printed? Read aloud into a record?), and how was it implemented?

Help me understand what's going on here, please.
posted by MonkeyToes to Religion & Philosophy (4 answers total)
The Guardian's covered it in some depth, and there are a number of links on Thinking Anglicans that you might find useful.
posted by essexjan at 2:48 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thinking Anglicans looks like it will be helpful, essexjan. Thank you.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:58 AM on November 30, 2012

The General Synod approved the principle of women bishops as long ago as July 2006, and -- despite appearances -- it's virtually certain that the Church of England will start ordaining women as bishops within the next two years. The vote last week was not a rejection of women bishops, but *deep breath* (stay with me here) a rejection of the proposed mechanism for protecting the opponents of women bishops.

When women were first ordained to the priesthood in 1993, an elaborate mechanism was put in place for protecting traditionalists. This was known as the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod, and was basically the price that supporters of women's ordination had to pay to get the measure passed. In effect, it allowed traditionalist parishes to 'opt out' by placing themselves under 'alternative episcopal oversight', i.e. under the authority of like-minded bishops who promised never to ordain women. This has been highly controversial, and supporters of women's ordination have lobbied ever since to try to get the Act of Synod rescinded.

Now the traditionalists want a similar concession written into the legislation for women bishops. This is where the Synod has been unable to reach agreement. On the one hand, traditionalists are worried that they will end up with women bishops who will say to them: "either you accept a woman as your priest, or I'm closing your parish down". On the other, supporters of the measure are worried that if they make too many concessions, they will end up with traditionalist parishes who tell their bishops: "we don't accept your authority and we're going to pretend you don't exist, fingers in ears, la la la".

It has. so far, been impossible to reconcile these two positions. The measure before Synod last week was an awkward compromise known as the 'Appleby amendment' which managed to annoy both sides. Supporters of the measure felt it went too far, whereas opponents of the measure felt it didn't go far enough. The result, as you know, was that the Catholic Group in the General Synod, supported by conservative evangelicals, managed to muster enough votes to block the measure.

So what happens next? There is widespread dismay at the thought of waiting until the next General Synod and then starting all over again, and most people want the measure brought back to Synod as soon as possible. The traditionalists are, naturally, hoping that they can use this to secure a better deal for themselves. However, the Synod's secretary-general William Fittall is now suggesting that the measure could come back to Synod next year with no provision for traditionalists at all. This is unlikely to happen (though far from impossible), but it's a veiled threat to traditionalists that if they don't behave reasonably they may end up with nothing.

I was appalled by the vote last week, but on reflection I've come round to the view that it may not be such a bad thing if it puts an end to 'business as usual' and shines a light into some of the murkier areas of the Church of England. At the very least it draws attention to the very unrepresentative way that lay members of the General Synod are elected. It also exposes the continuing discrimination against women in the Church, embodied in dodgy backroom deals like the so-called 'London Plan'. There's a lot about the Church of England that is, frankly, indefensible, and a lot of people who have a vested interest in keeping it that way, but this could just be the moment when things start to change (or fall apart, depending on your point of view).
posted by verstegan at 5:06 AM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

verstegan, thank you. Just what I was hoping for.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:35 AM on November 30, 2012

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