This is the full text of the GRAS advertisement which appeared in the Church Times on February 6th 2004 on which we invited Archbishop Habgood to comment
GRAS says Act of Synod must go NOW
The Group for Rescinding the Act of Synod (GRAS) is marking the 10th anniversary of Women’s ordination to the Priesthood by calling for the Act of Synod to be rescinded NOW and launching a campaign against a third province.
The Church of England is able to practise discrimination legally because it is exempt from the Sexual Discrimination Act (1975) and the Act of Synod is an official, institutional endorsement of discriminatory attitudes and practices. To understand the offence caused by the Act of Synod, one has to imagine how black people would feel about a measure protecting those who wanted to practise and condone racism. The Act of Synod legitimises discrimination against women that would be unlawful and subject to criminal prosecution in other institutions and workplaces.
‘It is time to rescind the act now’ says Rev. Mary Robins of GRAS, ‘the Church needs to disassociate itself from discrimination if it is to be a credible institution. Parishes and Deaneries around the country are now realising how damaging the Act of Synod is and are asking Dioceses to pass resolutions for the removal of this unpleasant piece of Church legislation.’
NO ‘third’ province
Forward in Faith is now supporting the idea of a third province because it believes it would provide still further protection for its position.
Some members of Forward in Faith are so enthusiastic about a third province that they are actively campaigning for the consecration of women bishops believing that a third province would be the inevitable pay-off. Dr Rachel Carr of GRAS argues that ‘a third province would take all the abuses of the Act of Synod and set them in stone for the foreseeable future. The Act of Synod was conceived as a temporary measure to help those who were still coming to terms with the horror of seeing women at the altar. It was always assumed that they would grow out of this and return to the main fold of the Church. A third province would provide a permanent bolthole for sexist clergy. Indeed it would encourage them.’
A third province would provide alternative Arch-Episcopal oversight to those male priests unable to accept the priestly ministry of women. Such a step would extend the existing discrimination practised by the Church of England. Imagine if the NHS set up a separate health service for those who never wanted contact with a woman doctor. Or imagine a separate education system designed to cater for white pupils only. This is precisely the kind of structural discrimination against women clergy that would be enshrined in a third province.
‘The question we need to ask’ says Dr Carr ‘is what a third province would say about us. It would mean that sexism was an official policy of the Church of England. Why is it that the Church can understand the evil of racism, but remain blind to the evil of sexism? It is my hope that Rowan Williams does not want to go down in history as “the Archbishop who backed expediency rather than principle.” Everyone remembers Emily Pankhurst who argued from principle for women’s suffrage. Who now can remember the many others who were unprepared to take a stand on such a basic issue of discrimination? I would like Rowan Williams to be remembered for taking the high moral ground, not the path of compromise.’
Congratulations to our Women Priests
GRAS congratulates our women priests on a decade of splendid ministry in the Church of England. Rev. Robins says `women’s ordination in 1994 was an historic step from which there will be no turning back. Sexism is now dying in the Church of England; the question is not if it will die out completely but when. Let’s now have women bishops and Archbishops in the future too!’
GRAS says YES to women bishops
GRAS supports the consecration of women bishops at the earliest opportunity. This must take place without promoting structural discrimination. The protections in the Ordination of Women Measure provide very fully for those who want to be ministered to by male clergy. There is no need for either the Act of Synod or a third province.