4 – Conclusion

Colin Podmore looks at the final section of the House of Bishops’ Declaration


Arrangements in relation to other places of worship

The cathedral is the seat of the bishop, who has the right to officiate there in accordance with the cathedral’s constitution and statutes. It is for this reason that, while some cathedrals are also parish churches, the House does not believe that the arrangements set out in the preceding paragraphs for the passing of resolutions can apply to cathedrals.

The House does not believe that gender or theological conviction in relation to the ordained ministry of women should be an obstacle to appointment as dean or cathedral canon. What matters is that all appointed to cathedral ministry are willing to work together in close partnership and with the highest possible degree of communion in the interests of the institution that they serve.

As no cathedral has a resolution under the existing legislation, the exclusion of cathedrals from passing resolutions is no loss.

Though the Act of Synod outlawed discrimination with regard to senior appointments, that provision was not honoured. No traditional catholics are now cathedral deans and fewer than a handful are residentiary canons. The Act of Synod had no enforcement mechanism. In future we shall be able to raise the systemic or institutional discrimination that this situation surely reflects as a concern with the Independent Reviewer.

Other worshipping communities

Given the great variety of non-parochial places in which regular worship and ministry take place it is not sensible to try and generalise about the arrangements that should be made in relation to them beyond affirming that the guiding principles set out in paragraph 5 above are of as much relevance to them as to the rest of the Church of England.

Paragraph 33 should be an encouragement to worshipping communities other than parish churches to seek provision under the Declaration.

Canonical obedience


At ordination and on taking up any office in the Church of England priests and deacons are required under Canon C 14 to swear or affirm that they will “pay true and canonical obedience to the Lord Bishop of C and his successors in all things lawful and honest.” Bishops are similarly required to take an oath of due obedience to the archbishop of the province. Clergy and bishops also take an Oath of Allegiance to the Queen and make the Declaration of Assent.

These Oaths and the Declaration are important because they each involve recognition that a person does not exercise ministry in isolation or on their own authority but within a framework of relationship with others and within the tradition of faith as the Church of England has received it. The House acknowledges that the taking of the oath to the diocesan bishop or the oath of due obedience to the archbishop may, in future, raise issues for those who, for theological reasons, remain committed to a male episcopate and priesthood.

Nevertheless, the House believes that all ministers of the Church of England will be able, in good conscience, to take the oath. Doing so adds nothing legally to the duty of canonical obedience, which already exists in law. Rather, it is a recognition of the pattern of relationships which underpins the exercise of ministry by those who make and receive the oath. It follows from the guiding principles set out in paragraph 5 above, and the spectrum of Anglican teaching and tradition which they acknowledge, that the giving and receiving of the oath does not entail acting contrary to theological conviction.

At this point the Declaration returns to the issue of canonical obedience already mentioned in the first Guiding Principle and in paragraph 7 (see the commentary on the Forward in Faith website). This issue is a challenging one for Conservative Evangelicals, for whom owing obedience to women in positions of authority (‘headship’) is difficult.

For Catholics, by contrast, the issue is one of order, not jurisdiction. If jurisdiction had been a problem for us, female archdeacons and female diocesan chancellors (both offices that confer ordinary jurisdiction) would have been problematic.

Therefore, however strange or uncomfortable it may feel, it should be possible to acknowledge the duty of obedience to women who hold the office of diocesan bishop (noting that this does not include obedience to commands that the law does not empower a bishop to give). We note, too, that the canonical oath requires clergy to refer to the diocesan bishop as ‘the Lord Bishop’, regardless of his or her sex – a reminder that the role of bishop is inherently masculine (the canonical definition of a diocesan bishop as a ‘Father in God’ remains unamended).

What we cannot receive – directly or indirectly – is the episcopal and priestly ministry of women, and the House of Bishops’ Declaration makes full provision for our position.

Resolving disputes

Grievances and mediation

Canon C 29 requires the House to make Regulations prescribing a procedure for the resolution of disputes arising from the arrangements for which this declaration makes provision. In accordance with that requirement the House has made the Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests (Resolution of Disputes Procedure) Regulations 201-, the text of which is set out in the Annex to this declaration. Participation in the procedure is mandatory for those clerical office holders against whom a grievance may be brought under it.
The Resolution of Disputes Procedure was discussed in the June issue of NEW DIRECTIONS (see the commentary on the Forward in Faith website).

Assurance and trust

Providing assurance

This declaration has been prepared in connection with legislation to admit women to the episcopate, proposals for which have been the subject of extensive debate in the Church of England over a number of years. It flows from the House’s desire to establish a climate of trust within which there can be mutual flourishing, notwithstanding the differences of conviction which will continue to exist on this issue.
The present members of the House, like the members of the General Synod, cannot give binding commitments which would prevent their successors from considering matters afresh in the light of experience and new developments. Nevertheless, the House accepts its responsibility for creating and sustaining the necessary confidence that the arrangements set out in this declaration can be relied on and will prove durable.
43. Additionally, the House of Bishops acknowledges that PCCs may want some time to consider the options open to them. To allow for an orderly transition the House has agreed, therefore, that resolutions passed under the 1993 Measure or petitions made under the 1993 Act of Synod should be treated for two years after the date on which the Amending Canon is promulged as if they were resolutions passed under paragraph 20.

The repeal of the 1993 Measure and the recission of the Act of Synod will come into effect on the day that the new Canon is promulged (expected to be Monday 17 November). The Declaration will be fully effective from that day.

However, in response to a request from Forward in Faith, the House of Bishops has indicated in paragraph 43 that Resolutions A, B and C will be treated as if they were resolutions under the Declaration for a period of up to two years from that same day.

This means that there is no need for parishes to do anything in November (or indeed in December, when Advent and preparation for Christmas should be at the top of our agenda).

Forward in Faith will be publishing its Advice to PCCs and Parish Priests before the end of the year, and will be holding a training day for the Society Bishops’ Representatives in January. They will then be fully equipped to support parishes in passing resolutions under the Declaration.

Some parishes in which resolutions have not in the past been thought necessary – and perhaps even some where resolutions are currently in force – may benefit from some teaching about why the ordination of women as bishops and priests is problematic. Paragraph 43 allows time for this.

Forward in Faith recommends that resolutions should be considered during the course of 2015, after there has been an opportunity for teaching and discussion. ND

A full commentary on the Declaration is available on the Forward in Faith website. Forward in Faith will also be publishing guidance to parishes on passing Resolutions under the Declaration.