Colin Podmore begins to look at how the House of Bishops’ Declaration says the Five Guiding Principles will be applied in practice

Simplicity, reciprocity and mutuality

6. The House believes that the outworking of these principles needs to be accompanied by simplicity, reciprocity and mutuality.


The simplicity of the legislation now agreed by the General Synod is reflected in the fact that it makes no changes to the structures of the Church of England, leaves unaltered the position of each diocesan bishop as Ordinary and preserves the historic requirement for canonical obedience to the diocesan bishop ‘in all things lawful and honest’ and for the taking of oaths acknowledging this duty.1
The practical arrangements to be made for parishes which, on grounds of theological conviction, are unable to receive the priestly or episcopal ministry of women need to be made with the same principle of simplicity in mind.
1 Canon C 1.3 provides that ‘According to the ancient law and usage of this Church and Realm of England, the priests and deacons who have received authority to minister in any diocese owe canonical obedience in all things lawful and honest to the bishop of the same … ’. By way of acknowledgement of that duty, under Canon C 14 clergy are required on various occasions to make or reaffirm the Oath of Canonical Obedience to their diocesan bishop. But we are advised that, in the light of the decision of the Privy Council in Long v Bishop of Capetown (1863), the duty of obedience does not require the cleric to comply with any and every direction given by the bishop; rather, it requires the cleric to obey such directions as the diocesan bishop is authorised by law to give.

We considered the issue of canonical obedience to the Ordinary in August when looking at the first Guiding Principle. Paragraph 7 raises the specific issue of the Oath of Canonical Obedience.

The footnote points out that the Oath does not create a duty of obedience to the Ordinary, but merely acknowledges an existing duty.

It also explains that canonical obedience does not require a priest or deacon to obey a direction that the law does not authorize a bishop to give. For example, a bishop cannot require a priest to receive communion from him or her, or to attend a celebration of the Eucharist at which the bishop presides.


Reciprocity means that everyone, notwithstanding differences of conviction on this issue, will accept that they can rejoice in each other’s partnership in the Gospel and cooperate to the maximum possible extent in mission and ministry. There will need to be an acknowledgement that the differences of view which persist stem from an underlying divergence of theological conviction.
In particular reciprocity will mean that those of differing conviction will do all within their power to avoid giving offence to each other. There will need to be sensitivity to the feelings of vulnerability that some will have that their position within the Church of England will gradually be eroded and that others will have because not everyone will receive their ministry.
Now that the Church of England has admitted women to the episcopate there should within each diocese be at least one serving bishop, whether the diocesan or a suffragan, who ordains women to the priesthood. This has a bearing on the considerations that the Crown Nominations Commission and diocesan bishops will need to take into account when considering diocesan and suffragan appointments.
In addition, dioceses are entitled to express a view, in the statement of needs prepared during a vacancy in see, as to whether the diocesan bishop should be someone who will or will not ordain women. In dioceses where the diocesan bishop does not ordain women he should ensure that a bishop who is fully committed to the ordained ministry of women is given a role across the whole diocese for providing support for female clergy and their ministry.
All bishops have a shared responsibility for the welfare of the whole Church of England. It will be important that senior leadership roles within dioceses continue to be filled by people from across the range of traditions.
In paragraph 9, we are asked to co-operate with those with whom we differ, and share as much as we can in mission and ministry within our dioceses. This will require continued engagement – or re-engagement – with the structures of the deanery and diocese.

By calling for co-operation ‘to the maximum possible extent’, the Declaration recognizes that there will be limits to the extent of such co-operation (for example, with regard to the celebration of the sacraments).

We are asked to recognize that theological arguments are advanced in favour of ordaining women as priests and bishops. (However much women’s ordination owes to secular liberalism, that is not its only source.) Equally, the Declaration recognizes our position as one of ‘theological conviction’ (not backward conservatism or misogyny).

Paragraph 10 calls for sensitivity to our feelings of vulnerability. It also calls on us to be sensitive to those whose ministry we cannot receive. In doing so, the Declaration again recognizes and accepts that, for theological reasons, not everyone will receive the ministry of women as priests and bishops.

In paragraph 11 the House of Bishops says that there ‘should’ be a diocesan or suffragan bishop who ordains women to the priesthood in every diocese. The House appears not to have noticed the irony involved in calling for this in a section headed ‘reciprocity’ which includes no call for a diocesan or suffragan in each diocese who does not ordain women.

Paragraph 12 allows diocesan vacancy in see committees to request a bishop who will ordain women. The previous ban on their doing so has not prevented the appointment of bishops who ordain women to all but two diocesan sees, so its removal is no great loss.

The paragraph also states that it will be possible for men who do not ordain women to be appointed as diocesan bishops, and also for dioceses to request that. Whether such appointments will occur often – or even at all – seems doubtful (though we can never be sure what the future holds). None the less, it is significant that, twenty years after the first women were ordained to the priesthood, the House of Bishops has affirmed, with the agreement of the General Synod, that unwillingness to ordain women is not a bar to appointment as a diocesan bishop.

The call for a bishop to support female clergy in a diocese whose diocesan does not ordain women priests is the counterpart to the role of our bishops in ministering to our clergy in the overwhelming majority of dioceses where the diocesan bishop does not share our view.

Paragraph 13 makes another important statement: ‘It is important that senior leadership roles within dioceses continue to be filled by people from across the range of traditions’. We might quibble with the word ‘continue’, since in the great majority of dioceses there is no traditional catholic in any leadership position, and some are effectively one-party states.

What is important is that the Declaration now calls for diversity. If bishops cannot show that they are doing all in their power to achieve such diversity within the leadership of their dioceses, this statement in the Declaration will enable us to raise that as a concern with the Independent Reviewer. Under the Act of Synod there was effectively nothing that we could do.

There are encouraging signs that those responsible, on behalf of the House of Bishops, for policy concerning senior appointments, and the development of clergy who might be suitable for them, are now beginning to consider how they can work towards making such diversity a reality.


Mutuality reflects the Church of England’s wider commitment to sustaining diversity. It means that those of differing conviction will be committed to making it possible for each other to flourish. All should play a full part in the lives of the deaneries and dioceses and be prepared to engage with the diocesan bishop whoever he or she is.

Equal treatment, for example in relation to resource issues and the discerning of vocations to the ordained ministry, is essential irrespective of convictions in relation to gender and ministry. In discerning vocations bishops will continue not to discriminate on the grounds of a candidate’s theological conviction on his issue. In addition, ordination services for deacons and priests should be planned and conducted in a way that is consistent with the five guiding principles set out in paragraph 5 above.

Here the Declaration again stresses the Church of England’s ‘commitment to sustaining diversity’. Forward in Faith will be monitoring how successful dioceses are in fulfilling this commitment.

Paragraph 14 stresses that we should play our full part in the structures of the Church of England. That is crucially important. It is only by being involved that we will gain respect for our views and have the opportunity for the conversations that will enable us to win people over to our position. And clergy who have shown no interest in the wider Church of England are unlikely to be appointed to roles that involve responsibility for the wider Church.

The commitment in paragraph 15 to equal treatment in relation to resource issues is important too. Our parishes must be treated fairly where the allocation of financial resources and clergy are concerned.

Paragraph 15 also says that there must be no discrimination against traditional catholic ordinands.

The Act of Synod similarly outlawed discrimination against candidates for ordination, but it made no specific provision with regard to the ordination of traditional catholic candidates.

By contrast, the Declaration says that ordination services must be arranged in accordance with the five principles. Ordinations are conducted under the authority of the diocesan bishop, and the archdeacon – male or female – has the right to present the candidates (Principle 1). But ordinands cannot flourish (Principle 4), and sacramental provision cannot be made (Principle 5), if the arrangements (for example, concerning presidency and the laying on of hands) violate the consciences of those who are to be ordained. Again, if these commitments are broken we can now raise concerns with the Independent Reviewer.

Arrangements for Parishes and Other Places of Worship Arrangements for Parishes and Other Places of Worship are set out in paragraphs 16–29, 31–33 and 41–43 of the

Declaration. They will be the subject of a future article.

These provisions will only come into effect after the Canon has been promulged (probably in November). Furthermore, Resolutions A, B and C will be treated as if they were resolutions under the Declaration for up to two years from that point. There is nothing that parishes need to do at present.

A Supply of Bishops

The College of Bishops

The House affirms the importance of there continuing to be consecrations of bishops within the Church of England to enable such ministry to be provided. The fact that the sees of Ebbsfleet and Richborough in the diocese of Canterbury and Beverley in the diocese of York remain in existence will provide one of a range of means by which the Archbishops will ensure that a suitable supply of bishops continues where it would not be secured in other ways. The House also accepts that the presence in the College of Bishops of at least one bishop who takes the Conservative Evangelical view on headship is important for sustaining the necessary climate of trust.

Where an alternative bishop is going to provide pastoral and sacramental ministry to a parish, paragraph 26 of the Declaration says that he must be a member of the House of Bishops of a diocesan synod. That means that he cannot be a retired bishop (though retired bishops can of course assist on occasion, as they do now). That in turn means that there must be serving bishops who are not ordained by women and do not ordain women.

Paragraph 30 of the Declaration therefore lays a duty upon the Archbishops to ensure that there is a continuing supply of non-retired bishops who will be able to minister to our parishes sacramentally and pastorally under the Declaration. The arrangements for parishes that are set out in the Declaration assure us that our parishes will have access to that supply of bishops. Without these provisions, we would not have been able to say that our future in the Church of England is assured.

Unlike the Act of Synod, the Declaration makes specific reference to the continuance of the Sees of Beverley, Ebbsfleet and Richborough. As previously noted, the most recent report of the House of Bishops (GS 1932) explains in paragraph 23 that the Provincial Episcopal Visitors are here to stay, and that they will still be Provincial Episcopal Visitors. N