Delegation will not do

Simon Killwick explains why we need bishops with jurisdiction

Speaking at a Deanery Synod recently, I realized that we need a new slogan or mantra: ‘Delegation will not do.’ The old slogan A‘ Code of Practice will not do’ applied to the draft legislation which was sent into the Revision Committee in February 2009; that previous version of the legislation made provision for us through a Code of Practice. The Revision Committee changed the draft legislation so much that it was almost entirely new; the core provision for us is now in the draft Measure itself, which has the force of law. The current version makes provision for us by delegation from the diocesan bishop, who may be a woman. Nothing that can be put into the Code of Practice can change this provision written into the law itself; however robust the Code of Practice may be, it cannot alter the fact that the provision is by delegation from the diocesan bishop. We do not need to see the Code of Practice to see that the draft Measure will not do, because delegation will not do.

The current draft Measure provides for us to receive sacramental ministry and pastoral care from male bishops, acting with authority delegated from the diocesan bishop. It will not matter how orthodox these male bishops will be, if their authority is delegated from someone whose episcopal authority and oversight we cannot accept. Delegation will not do – only if we have bishops with authority in their own right, which they can share with their priests, can we have a proper place within the Church of England.

The Motion

The Following Motion drafted by the Church of England Evangelical Council will help us to obtain the provision we need, because it addresses the issue of delegation. The motion specifically asks that bishops provided for us be given authority in their own right, not delegated from the diocesan bishop. The legal authority of the diocesan bishop is ‘ordinary jurisdiction’; the motion asks that ordinary jurisdiction be given to bishops provided for us. This motion is particularly helpful because it has support from a wide grouping of Evangelicals, including those both for and against women bishops. The motion is that ‘this Synod desires that all faithful Anglicans remain and thrive together in the Church of England and therefore calls upon the House of Bishops to bring forward amendments to the draft Bishops and Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure to ensure that those unable on theological grounds to accept the ministry of women bishops are able to receive episcopal oversight from a bishop with authority (i.e. ordinary jurisdiction) conferred by the Measure rather than by delegation from a Diocesan Bishop.’

The Following Motion complements well the initiative of the Society of St Wilfred and St Hilda. If the Society is to provide the basis on which we may continue and thrive in the Church of England, then its bishops will need to have jurisdiction in their own right, not delegated from a diocesan bishop. They may not need jurisdiction in every respect that a diocesan bishop has, but they will need jurisdiction in sacramental and enough other areas to enable them to be genuine leaders in ministry and mission. For the Society to deliver provision, it will need the kind of amendments for which the Following Motion is calling.

Second-class bishops

As the draft Measure stands, bishops provided for us will have no jurisdiction in their own right; they will be second-class bishops. We have heard much from others that they do not want women bishops to be second-class bishops, and we don’t want that either. The Church of England Evangelical Council helpfully explain in the notes to their motion that they are calling for provision to be made in all dioceses, whether the diocesan bishop is male or female. This has always been our position; we are not simply concerned about gender, but about whether a bishop may be seen as standing in the Catholic succession of Holy Orders. The draft Measure, as it stands, would not only make our bishops second-class bishops, but it would also make us second-class members of the Church of England, with no provision for our theological convictions; it would make our parishes second-class parishes, and our priests second-class priests.

Encouraging news

The draft Measure is being debated in diocesan synods up and down the country, and many dioceses are asking deanery synods to debate it too. The news so far seems to be that there is a tendency to focus on the principle of women bishops, rather than the contents of

the draft Measure. However, synods are being asked to approve, or disapprove, the specific proposals contained in the draft Measure – which of course includes the provision made for us by delegation. There is some evidence that where the Following Motion is tabled for debate, it helps people to focus on the specific proposals of the Measure, including the provision, or lack of provision, for us. While we had originally thought of the Following Motion as being mainly aimed at diocesan synods, it has helped deanery synods to have better debates focused on the contents of the Measure itself. There is some encouraging news from early debates in deanery synods; some have passed the Following Motion, and others have even rejected the main motion; however, most deaneries and almost all dioceses have not yet had their debates, so it is early days.

Advance preparation

If the Following Motion is to be put, either at deanery or diocesan synods, it needs to be tabled in advance. Diocesan synods are governed by standing orders, and the motion must be tabled in accordance with those standing orders; contact the secretary of the diocesan synod or the diocesan registrar well in advance to find out how to do so. Deanery synods do not generally have standing orders, but it is important to give the text of the motion well in advance to the Rural Dean or the secretary to the synod, so that it can be included on the agenda. There is nothing to prevent following motions being tabled, though they may not be debated if the meeting runs out of time; even then, the presence of the motion on the agenda may help to focus the debate on the provisions of the Measure, rather than the principle. Advance preparation for a synod debate is important; some good speakers need to be identified and primed to speak, lay people as well as clergy. It is good to try and have a meeting of key people well before the synod meeting to plan for the debate, including sympathizers and well-wishers from other traditions.

Points to highlight

From debates that have taken place so far, a number of issues have proved helpful to bring out in debate. He first is broken promises: in 1993, the Church of England promised itself, us and Parliament that the legal provisions for Resolutions A and B, together with the Act of Synod, would remain for as long as they were needed by anyone. The draft Measure removes the legal provisions which we were promised would last; it also envisages that the Act of Synod will be rescinded. The second issue is that of fairness to all: the draft Measure so clearly makes us second-class Anglicans. Thirdly, there is comprehensiveness; many people value the comprehensiveness of the Church of England, and want to see it continue to include us and our tradition. The fourth point is the missing Code of Practice; we are told that the Code will include provision for us, but even a draft Code will not be available until after every deanery and diocesan synod has voted on the draft legislation. We are being asked to sign a blank cheque! Even when a draft Code eventually appears, there is no saying that it will be anything like the final Code, which can only be brought to General Synod some time after the Measure comes into force.

Briefing paper

In Manchester diocese, a briefing paper was produced for deanery synods by a representative group. The briefing paper explains that there are theological arguments for and against women bishops. It quotes the Lambeth Conference resolution that those in favour and those opposed to women bishops are loyal Anglicans. It describes how the draft legislation provides for us by means of bishops with authority delegated from the diocesan bishop. It explains that those who favour delegation consider that giving any independent authority to bishops for us would undermine the authority of diocesan bishops, particularly female diocesan bishops. It also says that those who are opposed to delegation point out that diocesan bishops do not now have jurisdiction in all places in their dioceses; for example, Armed Forces bases, prisons, Royal Peculiars and some university colleges do not come under the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop. Considering that the number of parishes seeking provision is not large, it is difficult to see how the authority of diocesan bishops would be undermined by conferring some independent authority on bishops for us. We have always been clear that provision would be needed in all dioceses, so the authority of female diocesan bishops would not be ‘undermined’ any more than that of their male colleagues.

For most of the rest of the year, this debate will continue in deaneries and dioceses, and we must all play our part in it. ‘Delegation will not do’; we need to get that message across very clearly, because whatever is in the Code of Practice cannot undo the principle of delegation enshrined in the draft Measure. We need to get the House of Bishops to amend the Measure, as is their prerogative. The Following Motion will help to focus our concerns with the flimsy provision in the draft Measure, which singularly fails to provide for our theological convictions. ND