Opposition to women bishops can be found in every generation, and notably among the recently ordained, as Philip Corbett explains
During the General Synod debate in February Mr Kevin Carey, a synod member for the Chichester Diocese, made the following comment: ‘…at York one of the things that struck me most was that the greatest noise of dissent from the gallery to the ordination of women priests and the consecration of women to the episcopate came from people ordained the week before.’
As one who was at the debate and who had only been ordained to the diaconate the week before, I feel that some response is needed. As I understand it there should be no reaction from the gallery during debates; observers should neither applaud speeches nor cause any distraction to the debate. As far as I know, the gallery was, for the most part, silent during the debate in July; a debate that left me wondering whether there would be a place for me in the Church of England. That said, there was dissent in the gallery, although for the most part this was voiced outside the chamber.
Across the generations
In raising the question of dissent by those recently ordained, Mr Carey highlights an important fact. The ‘dissent’, as he calls it, does not simply come from older clergy and laity. The theological understanding of Holy Orders that says that women cannot be ordained to the priesthood and episcopate is shared across generations; from those who have only recently been ordained to those who have been ordained for many years. Indeed among those training for the priesthood at Mirfield whilst I was there, those opposed to the ordination of women were among the youngest in College, and this continues there now.
Young men are still offering themselves for ordination; they hold fast to the teachings of the Church Catholic with regard to Holy Orders. In seeking to follow their vocation they seek ordination not into a Church that ordains women but rather into one that by provides by Measure and Act of Synod for those who in conscience cannot accept such innovations. It was to this Church
that I believed myself ordained.
Whilst it may not have been his intention, Mr Carey should be wary of criticizing the selection process of the Church of the England. Over a period of 24 months I was interviewed by my Diocesan Director of Ordinands (a woman priest) and by my bishop (in favour of the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate), and I attended a Bishop’s Advisory Panel (made up of men and women in favour of the ordination of women to the priesthood). At no point did I feel I was being treated unfairly.
I was asked to explain my theological views, and having done so was led to believe these views were held by the Church into which I was to be ordained, a Church that accepts a process of reception, a process which is not yet complete. On being released by my diocese, I was interviewed by another diocesan bishop and another Director of Ordinands, both again in favour of the ordination of women.
The CofE ordains people of both integrities and at its best does this fairly and openly. I cannot criticize a process that was conducted, in my case, prayerfully and openly. I hope that Mr Carey does not seek to undermine the selection of those who ‘dissent’ from the ordination of women in the Church of England.
Throughout my selection process and the last few months I have spent in a parish, I have sought to explain that I do not feel myself dissenting from anything; I and many like me, seek simply to affirm Catholic Order.
I hope that when the final vote comes, Mr Carey and other members of the General Synod will feel able to vote in such a way as to allow those of us only recently ordained to serve the Church of our baptism for the rest of our lives. This was my prayer when I was ordained and it is my prayer to this day. Our constituency is not a dying one. Allow us to get on with the mission of Church, bringing people to God.