The third part of Bishop Martyn Jarrett’s talk delivered in April seems of another age after the Synod vote but it still gives a clear and simple explanation of what type of provision is needed
For me to remain a committed member of the Church of England three things would have to be guaranteed were we to fail in stopping the Church of England in opting to admit women to episcopal orders.
Those of us who are unable to accept the innovation of women being admitted to the episcopate without the consent of the Church Universal would, whatever else we sought, require three fundamental provisions.
Firstly, we must have our own bishops. This means, of course, that they must have jurisdiction.
Every priest must be able to say that he belongs to the presbyterate of his bishop and not that he is a priest of whoever the local bishop happens to be, but able to call in a visitor with that local bishops permission. The same requirement is there, of course, for the eucharistic communities to which we minister.
Succession of bishops
This leads to my second essential, namely that our succession of bishops is guaranteed. You might find it surprising, but I do have actually to deal on a regular basis with bishops who see no problem in us having bishops who are male, even if they have been episcopally ordained by females.
My third point follows from that. Any priest who serves within a specific provision made for us must be someone whose orders are acceptable to us.
Again, you and I might think this to be obvious, but many have expressed great surprise when I have pointed out that even a male priest, ordained by a woman bishop, who subsequently changed his mind on the issue, would not be acceptable to us and those for whom we care, without some regularizing of his orders.
If this were not to be possible, then the only way forward would be never to permit such men to exercise an ordained ministry again from the time they changed their minds, a provision or rather lack of it that could hardly, to my mind, be described as pastoral.
I would stop there but the local vicar has asked me to say something about what you and I need to be doing in the immediate future. I identify a number of concerns to which we ought to be giving prime attention.
Firstly, there is no substitute for being involved in the Church’s mission. There are souls to be saved and God calls us to be his tools in that work of salvation. It will not do, I suspect, on the Day of Judgement, to say that, in uncertain times, you and I slackened in our ministry.
Doing the work
One of the great concerns of many bishops is that our distinctive and effective ministries might be undermined and lost if these so-called developments progress further.
Priests who can no longer, after full consideration and in good conscience, lead their parishes in mission or exercise their ministry diligently wherever God has placed them, somewhat puzzle me by remaining in that place. It would seem to be a basic issue of integrity, and you and I find it difficult to see how we do each other any favours were we to pretend it were otherwise.
Secondly, you and I need to continue to be robust as to why we think admitting women to bishops’ Orders is wrong. This means that you and I need to do some more thinking about our Anglican Catholic apologetic.
What has been quite clear to me these past few years is that the majority of Church of England members now do not seem to share our basic premises of what it means to be an Anglican nor to understand why, with our views, we seek to remain.
At a recent meeting a fellow bishop was reported as saying to some others that Martyn must be given permission to follow his conscience and become a Roman Catholic. A psychotherapist, upon having this conversation reported to her, observed that what might really be being said by the relevant bishop was that he wanted unchallenged permission to follow his own particular agenda and that opportunity would come nearer if I were first persuaded to move out of his way.
You and I need to be re-energized in understanding why we still seek to remain Anglicans and what we authentically understand the latter to be.
Thirdly, you and I need to be resolute and clear in what we would need in order to remain as members of the Church of England were women to be admitted to the episcopate. I have already said something about that.
Staying and talking
Fourthly, you and I need to cultivate our friends who do not agree with us on these matters. What has been quite clear to me, among other times, at meetings of the General Synod, is that there are a number of people who want to keep us on board and would only dream of proceeding were proper provision to be made for us.
You and I need to rediscover how we work with people of differing views from our own, to form common alliances. This usually means full involvement in deanery chapters and synods at all levels rather than isolation and, even worse, rudeness.
Finally, and this could of course become a whole paper in itself, you and I need to keep the issues relating to women’s ordination in perspective. There is a whole list of issues threatening the orthodox teaching of our Church. Arguably there always has been.
This one may be unique in that the sacramental life of the Church itself is directly threatened. It should, however, be remembered that the Arians possessed valid orders but managed to lose something far more precious, the understanding of Our Lord’s true nature.
There are many fellow Anglicans and, indeed, fellow Christians, who share our passionate concern for the great issues of Christian creedal orthodoxy and for the mission that stems from them.
‘Your God is too small’ protested J.B. Phillips in the title of one of his popular paperbacks. Let that charge not be fairly made against us.