It would be difficult for us not to be somewhat disappointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury writing that he hoped that the current legislation allowing for the ordination of women to the episcopate would pass. This is a far cry from his speeches in the General Synod when he asked the Synod to ensure all sides could move forward together and be happy. It is clear to us that the legislation as it stands is not fit for purpose and will lead to many more years of debate and wrangling as we seek to create a Code of Practice, a code that inevitably will not do. There is a better way forward; a way forward that will be better for the Church but that will require a brave step and a desire to return to first principles and to listen to those of us who continue in conscience to oppose this innovation.
The Archbishop did once seem to have a grasp of our needs; indeed he seemed almost to support them as a way forward. In an interview given to the Church Times in November 2002 the Archbishop goes on record and says:
And maybe we ought to be thinking well in advance about what the possibilities are. Do we need a Third Province solution? That has got to be thought through from early on in the discussion, and not just in haste afterwards. We have to face the reality that a lot of people who still identify themselves as Anglicans will not want to be in the kind of structural relationship they are now in with the rest of the Communion. Do we facilitate that?
Things have clearly changed but we would urge the Archbishop and the General Synod to consider very carefully whether the Third Province option as set out in Consecrated Women? might not still be the best way forward.
The Archbishop spoke in his interview of his ‘sympathy’ with those who called for a Third Province; it is not too late to consider this again. Alarm bells must surely be ringing in the ears of those in Synod and at Lambeth when they read the recent statement from the Group for Rescinding the Act of Synod. Gras state that they support the motion and will be keeping a vigilant eye on how the word ‘respect’ is interpreted. This presumably means they will ensure it is not interpreted in our favour.
Of even more concern is this statement of the purposes of Gras:
A commitment that, since the Church has accepted the principle of the orders of women as priests and bishops, in future all those being ordained should openly accept those orders as valid in accordance with the existing ecclesiastical rule (Canon A4).
At the National Assembly we were reminded of the importance of priestly vocations – ‘No priest, no future’ – and of the fact that 30 men attended a vocations conference for our constituency and in this edition of New Directions you can read Adam Wogan’s account of his vocational journey.
There can be no doubt that God is calling men to serve him in the Church and is calling men and women to a life in Christ in our parishes. Gras would see this wiped out; it would ensure that there would be no priests of our constituency. We may be asked to trust, but how can we trust when it is clear that Watch and Gras want no less than our complete removal from the Church of England?
Let us be clear, we believe and trust in what the Church has always believed, we hold true to the Apostolic faith, we have not changed and nor will we. For as long as God is sending us new vocations and new people in the faith there is a clear sign of hope for us.
We must look to the future in as clear and united way as possible. We cannot predict what the future will hold but we must pray and pray earnestly that the will of God will be done in the Church.
As the meeting of Synod approaches, do find time to pray for the Catholic Group and our Catholic bishops that they will find the strength and courage to remain true to the Catholic faith as we have received it. This is not the time for abstention or for capitulation, we seek a future for our children and our grandchildren and this legislation will not deliver that; nor will it deliver the unity and peace our Church so desperately needs.