Margaret Brown writes about the continuing work of the Third Province Movement
No, we haven’tgone away, and we do not intend to. We are still working and trying hard for a
Third Province within the Church of England. We believe that a Third Province is the only way forward to solve the enormous problems arising from the ordination of women to the priesthood and the possibility of the consecration of women as bishops.
So far, all the other options that have been put forward have been found wanting. Although the concept for a Third Province has been turned down, we are still determined to pursue our aim.
Definition and purpose
What is meant by a Third Province? The Church of England is organized in dioceses, each covering every parish in a specific area, grouped together in the two Provinces of Canterbury and York. The Third Province would be for those Anglicans throughout England, who, holding to the traditional faith and teaching of the Church are unable, in conscience, to accept the ordination of women to the priesthood and other liberal innovations.
The Third Province would be for all shades of churchmanship – AngloCatholic, Evangelical, Central or just plain Church of England.
Who would be in the Third Province? The Third Province would, in the first place, comprise those parishes which chose to join it, just as parishes can at present ask to be placed under the pastoral care of a Provincial Episcopal Visitor, or other sympathetic bishop, in accordance with the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod.
Would it be part of the Church of England? Yes, the Third Province would be a province of the Church of England, taking its place alongside the two existing provinces of Canterbury and York. It would not, like the existing provinces, cover every parish in a specified area, but would comprise selected parishes anywhere in England that had been transferred to it from the other two provinces.
The Third Province would itself be divided into a number of dioceses and deaneries.
How would its Archbishops and Bishops be appointed? As the Third Province would remain part of the Established Church, the procedure of the Crown Nominations Commission could be used, provided there were safeguards to ensure that acceptable appointments were made.
Would the Third Province have its own General Synod? The dioceses in the Third Province would send their bishops, and elected clerical and lay
representatives, to the General Synod of the Church of England in the usual way. In addition, however, these people would constitute a Provincial Synod of the Third Province, which would require past and future legislation that is regarded as highly contentious to be referred to it. The Provincial Synod would have power with regard to the application of such legislation to the Third Province, to approve it wholly or partly, and either with or without variations, or to reject it. The laws admitting women to the priesthood, for example, would not be applied to the Third Province, nor would other liberal changes that have been made or are proposed and which are not in accordance with our Statement of Policy.
Would parishes in the Third Province retain their buildings? The transfer of a parish to us would not affect the buildings, any more than under existing arrangements for changing diocesan boundaries. The status of every parish church in its local community would be unaltered.
How would the clergy be paid? The clergy would continue to receive their stipends and pensions as at present, with financial reapportionment between dioceses, as we are still members of the Church of England.
What provision would be made for individuals in parishes which accept women priests? The Third Province would take over from Rural Deans and the Provincial Episcopal Visitors the task of helping the many people in this unhappy position, who often find it hard to leave their local church. Parishes with us would endeavour to extend a special welcome to such people and to assist them with suitable transport facilities.
What are some of the advantages of a Third Province? The Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993 was passed by the General Synod to make provision for the continuing diversity of opinion in the Church of England as to the ordination and ministry of women as priests. It introduced a system whereby parishes which are opposed may be cared for pastorally and sacramental by a Provincial Episcopal Visitor or by some other sympathetic bishop nominated by the diocesan bishop.
Whilst this is helpful in such matters as Confirmations, the Diocesan Bishop still retains full jurisdiction, so that the PEV cannot exercise a full ministry, and people may well ask ‘Who is my bishop?’ If the Church of England was reorganized with a Third Province, every bishop would have jurisdiction over his diocese as well as serving it pastorally and sacramentally.
Under the present system friction often arises in a parish’s relations within the diocese, as for example, when the rural dean or the archdeacon is a woman priest, and many occasions, such as synodical meetings, when clergy and laity from various parishes join together for a Eucharistic service, are marred by difficulties over the
participation of women priests. The creation of a Third Province would restore harmony within each deanery and diocese.
The Act of Synod lays down that the selection of candidates for ordination, and appointments of senior office in the Church, shall be free from discrimination on the grounds of opinion held about the priesthood of women. This may be all right in theory, but it is extremely difficult in practice, especially in parishes where they hold traditional belief and customs. In a Third Province, all the clergy could have fair and normal prospects of preferment.
Some women priests at present resent being excluded from particular parishes, but after the formation of a Third Province, they would find their ministry accepted throughout their own province. We have good hope that many people who have left the Church of England through these recent innovations, would return to a Third Province. Time and resources would not be wasted on our unhappy divisions and we would become able to concentrate on the true mission of the Church to this nation and the world.
The Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament only sanctioned the legislation for the ordination of women to the priesthood, on condition that the needs for those opposed would be provided for, and we were promised that this provision would be made for as long as it was needed. Indeed, we have always been promised an honoured place in the Church of England. Let actions fit the words. If the Church breaks its promises, how can one expect the world to keep theirs?
For many Anglo-Catholics, Rome is not the answer; neither is the Ordinariate, any more than most Evangelicals do not want to leave for the Baptist Church. In the middle is a large swathe of Anglicans, quite a large number of whom would be unchurched. Why should we all be deprived of our birth-right? It is not we who have asked for change. All we ask is to be able to remain loyal Anglicans with proper provision made for us.
Cruel and unjust
It is not that we are ‘anti-women’, but on the grounds of theology and tradition, we are unable to accept them as priests, let alone bishops. The innovation of women priests has not seen the promised rise in church in attendance.
It is greatly unjust that, by a vote in General Synod, a large minority, of approximately one-third of the Church of England, could be unchurched. As Christians, it should
be on the conscience of all those in favour of women bishops to do all in their power to ensure that adequate provision enshrined in law is made for those who are opposed. It is God’s Church, and it is not for the General Synod or any other body to meddle with it as they think fit. To deprive traditionalists of a place in the Church of England that they have loved and served, in many cases all their lives, is cruel and unjust to the extreme.
At present, there is the ongoing referral of the legislation to the dioceses where it has to be debated by the Diocesan Synod and voted upon, with referral to the Deanery Synods. In 2012, there will be the production of a draft Code of Practice with debate on the Code in General Synod. This, in turn, will be followed by consideration by the House of Bishops. Then there will be the Final Approval debate in the General Synod where a two-thirds majority will be required in each House for the legislation to pass. If this succeeds, the legislation will be considered by the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament, and if this is passed, the legislation will be laid before Parliament and the Royal Assent given.
Things to do
Contact your Diocesan Bishop. Contact your General Synod Representatives and ask them to vote against the Code of Practice at General Synod when it is debated, and instead to insist on legislation enshrined in law. A Code of Practice will not do, because it is not legally binding. Then contact the same people asking them to vote against the legislation to ordain women to the episcopate when it comes before General Synod for Final Approval.
It is of the utmost importance that we pray for the Church of England, for the archbishops, bishops, clergy, General Synod and all congregations up and down our land. Prayer is not just very important, it is vital, for the Church and for the nation. Pray that more people would come to proclaim Jesus Christ as their Saviour.
The Church has been through dreadful times in the past. Our task is to remain faithful. We in the Third Province Movement beg you to stay in the Church of England, and pray and fight hard for a Third Province.