Spirit of cynicism
From Bishop Harry Entwistle

Some of your correspondents have expressed bewilderment that the liberal establishment in Wales believe that the Holy Spirit got his numbers wrong at the recent Welsh Synod in the debate on women bishops. Clearly voting in Synod can be a risky business.

In order to avoid causing embarrassment to the Divine Being by allowing him to misread a Synods mind, the liberals in Australia decided the right forum to produce a more enlightened response was the Appellate Tribunal, a legal group which exists to provide an opinion on the legal implications of the Constitution. Even they nearly got it wrong: only by the slimmest majority of 4:3 did they opine that there was no legal constraint to a woman becoming a diocesan bishop, but the Canon concerning Assistant Bishops needed to be made gender inclusive. The opinion was sufficient for the liberals to declare this to be a ruling, and the rest they say is history.

So liberals in Wales take note. If the Holy Spirit is likely to give the wrong answer next time in Synod, you may have better luck with the lawyers.

Harry Entwistle

Women deacons
From Mrs Elaine Bishop

The May issue of New Directions is understandably preoccupied with the subject of women bishops. I hope this pressing question will not totally obscure the interest of Ann Turner’s article, ‘Fostering Vocations’ in the April issue, where she grasps the nettle of women deacons.

There was a marked absence of theological engagement, and of the will to venture into it, on both sides of the debate. For example, when I was invited to deliver two lectures to the (now defunct) Anglican Society in 1992, the first lecture, on women priests, was printed in their Journal, but the second, on women deacons, was not. The situation has not improved since those days.

In the Church of England the order of Deaconesses was suppressed for political reasons, to steer women responding to a vocation into the one channel left open, the Apostolic Ministry. It is scandalous that their own ministry has been denied them.

My slightly expanded thoughts on women deacons can be found online in New Directions for January 1999. I wish the FiF Working Party well in their deliberations. Women’s ministry needs to be formulated afresh for the situation that appears to lie ahead of us.

Elaine Bishop

True priesthood
From the Revd P. Hale

Thank you for publishing Sarah Mowbray’s brave and moving article about her path from the priesthood. However, I was a bit taken aback to find that she describes herself as ‘returning to a priesthood to which I have always belonged, the priesthood of all believers.’

May I remind her that the phrase ‘the priesthood of all believers’ was first used by Luther in order to deny Holy Order was a sacrament. He considered that ordination was, rather, an ecclesiastical ceremony, somewhat like the blessing of vessels for Holy Communion – his own comparison. But I’m sure it wasn’t Sarah’s intention to cast doubt on the validity of her husband’s orders as well as her own!

P. Hale
Vancouver BC

Multi-tasking benefits
From Alun Grahame

The article by Sarah Mowbray [ND April] and the report by Ann Turner in the same issue on the FiF Working Party’s proposals on vocations policy both look at what should be the role for the ministry of women.

I feel that it is essential that a free province maintains and develops a prominent diaconal role for women. Indeed, given the undoubted greater ability of women to multi-task, there should be a presumption that free province archdeacons will be female. This would proclaim the com-plimentarity of the sexes, the male in the fatherly role of priest and the female as the manager (as most Mums are).

Is FiF bold enough to take these steps?

Alun Grahame
Amman Valley, SA18 1LP

Impossible fellowship
From Revdf.f. Frais

The article on Lambeth by the Bishop of Norwich [‘Refusing invitations,’ May] twice misses the point. First, he notes Dean Jensen’s claim that attendance by those who consecrated Gene Robinson (2003) makes fellowship impossible and concludes ‘it seems you cannot even confer’. But conferring happened before the consecration and had no effect.

Second, he writes that those who shun Lambeth ‘will damage the unity of the church’. But the damage was done five years ago. If years of post-consecration talks have failed to clarify these points, why talk any more?

Jonathan Frais
11 Coverdale Avenue,
Bexhill TN39 4TY

From Fr Bernard Sixtus

At once I confess to a degree of personal interest in Sarah Mowbrays tale [ND April] which evoked the response from Bp Colin Buchanan printed in May’s issue: a contemporary of James in College, I was attached to the parish Sarah worked in at Mirfield and, like her, subsequently changed my mind on the question of women’s priestly ordination, and indeed did so to some degree under the influence of the same text, Psalm 110. And that remains the real question {pace Bp Buchanan): not whether an ordination rite (Anglican or other) contains explicit reference to Ps 110.4, but whether the application of that text to Christ in Hebrews has decisive implications for our understanding of the ministerial priesthood. These implications themselves are what matters, at least as long as the rite does not rule them out – and the rite in question does not.

However, insofar as he really queries the role of Psalm 110.4 in understanding the ministerial priesthood I would respectfully recommend Bp Buchanan test his doubts on something like Dermot Power’s A Spiritual Theology of the Priesthood rather than read what was a brave autobiographical note like Sarah’s as if it were itself such an academic exercise in sacramental theology. Otherwise it might appear, to those less well-meaning than he is, as if the Bishop, for all his professed respect of Sarah, was not so much expressing a genuine desire to understand as an urge to score a point on the basis of his knowledge of matters liturgical.

Bernard Sixtus
Holy Trinity Vicarage, Abergavenny

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