Features

Conservative Anglicans’ emergency plan to escape women bishops

The Anglican Mission in England looks like a support group. But if required, it could turn into rather more than that

20 September 2014

9:00 AM

20 September 2014

9:00 AM

Anglicans aren’t the sort of church-goers who set much store by miracles, signs and wonders. Yet their own church is one of the greatest miracles of our society: it has managed to hang together, in spite of raging differences, for centuries.

Since 14 July, that miracle has been under threat. For most, it was a great leap forward when the General Synod finally approved the ordination of women bishops. A delighted Archbishop of Canterbury was ‘grateful to God and to answered prayers’. David Cameron called it a ‘great day for the church and for equality’.

But one section of the church didn’t feel it was a great day. Members of the conservative evangelical movement, represented by a pressure group called Reform, had resisted this change for years. Reform was set up after the Church of England approved the ordination of women as priests in 1993. Before the vote on bishops, they and the remaining Anglo-Catholics had argued there was insufficient provision for those who still believed that the Bible does not permit women to lead in this way. The conservatives feared being forced to submit to a bishop whose authority they disputed. They lost the argument.

Next week Reform will hold a conference for its members to decide what happens next. And what does happen next will surely change the character of the Church of England, for better or worse.

By the time July’s vote rolled around, the conservatives just wanted an exemption from being led by a female bishop. They argued that if a woman was appointed in their diocese, those churches that are ‘complementarian’ (believe that men and women are equal in the sight of God but have different roles) could have a different spiritual leader. They failed to get this, but the declaration by the House of Bishops said it was dedicated to this particular group ‘flourishing’ in the Church of England, and will appoint a conservative evangelical bishop to ‘represent them’.

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This word ‘flourish’ may prove more sinister than it sounds. It seems to be that complementarians can continue to believe what they do, but only so long as they don’t cause a fuss if a woman is appointed in their diocese. Conservative clergy applying for jobs may find that their honesty about their stance on this issue puts an interview panel off them entirely. Silent flourishing is welcome, but nothing more vocal, thank you.

To non-Anglicans, this probably sounds like a storm in a vicarage teacup. Even other Christian denominations might be bemused: the Bible talks only of overseers and deacons, so the Church of England is bickering over a made-up job. Baptists might well feel they’d got it right all along: by not having bishops, you can avoid an almighty row.

Even to those who do worship in Anglican churches, it’s difficult to understand why this has become such a big problem that it requires pressure groups, repeated votes and horsetrading. The church once again seems obsessed by gender and sex when the outside world has moved on.

The conservatives themselves say that these debates are ‘secondary issues’ that shouldn’t split the church. But they’ve spent a heck of a lot of time and effort fighting over something ‘secondary’, haven’t they? Susie Leafe, director of Reform, argues that she and her colleagues are not stick-in-the-muds but are instead sticking to the Bible: ‘Who are we to redefine who God claims to be and what He says?’ Those bits of the Good Book, incidentally, include 1 Timothy 2:12, where Paul says ‘I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet’, and 1 Corinthians 11:3, in which the early church is told that ‘the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man’.

Liberals take those verses with a strong dose of context: women were barely educated when the church was forming. And elsewhere, Paul also instructs women to cover their heads, which not even Reform advocates. Even evangelicals can’t agree on the practical implications of these verses: the late theologian John Stott argued that it meant women could be teachers but not bishops. Others, like those parishes associated with Holy Trinity Brompton and the Alpha Course, are quite comfortable with women serving in all roles.

But for those who do take a literal reading of these verses — and who don’t fancy Catholicism — a split looms. It won’t be dramatic or happen all at once: Reform anticipates that Anglican congregations who disagree with female bishops will be forced to leave whenever their diocese is led by a woman. But they don’t want to join the Baptists or other evangelical denominations: they see themselves as Anglicans, committed to those articles of faith that jumbled them into the C of E in the first place.

Instead, they have an alternative Anglican structure waiting for them. It is called the Anglican Mission in England (Amie) and was set up by the Global Anglican Future Conference, itself a deeply conservative movement in the global communion. Amie is a support group, but it is also well organised, and would be able to cope with practical administrative matters for refugee evangelical groups.

Good riddance, loyal Anglicans might say. If you can’t commit to the compromises necessary to be part of that miraculous unity of liberals and conservatives, high church and low church, then you haven’t really got it in you to be a proper Anglican anyway.

But those preparing to pack up their bags or declare independence argue that they represent the growing wing of the Church of England, and say they’ll leave behind liberals who cannot keep Anglicanism alive. Reform’s research backs them up: in a survey of 185 churches who opposed women bishops, two thirds had grown in the past decade, with a third growing by more than 33 per cent each year. And a third of these congregations are under 30. For the rest of the church, the picture is miserable: the average age of a congregation is 62 and nearly half of English congregations have fewer than five members under 16.

This isn’t quite fair to the churches the conservatives would leave behind. If Holy Trinity Brompton, which devised the world-famous Alpha Course, is happily staying, then the C of E is hardly doomed to a dusty decline. But if a rapidly growing branch of the church breaks off, soon Anglicanism could be somewhat less miraculous.

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Show comments
  • Stephen Milroy

    If the Church of England spent more time being a church and less time being a hippy commune we would not have such a moral vacuum in our country or such Islamifictation.

  • Stephen Milroy

    If the Church of England spent more time being a church and less time being a hippy commune we would not have such a moral vacuum in our country or such Islamifictation.

    • Coniston

      You should get about more. Quite a number of churches are as you describe (they are in fairly rapid decline). But there are many – both conservative evangelical and Anglican catholic – which are nothing of the sort.

    • Dominic

      I don’t know where you live, and if you actually go to church at all Stephen (at least to a C of E church), but if you can point me to a hippy commune that’s a C of E church, I would love to visit. I minister in a C of E parish in a Northamptonshire town, and, frankly, a bit of ‘hippy’ (as you so bizarrely put it) would be a welcome diversion to the folk I encounter Sunday by Sunday.

      • Stephen Milroy

        I attend my local Church of England Church in my village weekly thanks. Fairly middle of the road (no jumpers and guitars but then no King James Bible or Book of Common Prayer either). As for the use of the word ‘hippy’, ok maybe a bit outlandish but can you blame me when we have a church which is quick to criticise the government for food banks but not for minor issues like, oh I don’t know the vast moral decline in the U.K for example, or maybe the genocide of Christianity in the Middle East maybe. No, the church is too busy making itself relevant to (i.e. completely indistinguishable from) our corrupt society at large….

        • Marshal Phillips

          Using 60s slang to describe the Church of England today is a bit much, no matter how you feel about the ordination of women. Hippies are old hat.

          • Demon Teddy Bear

            Don’t be silly.

          • Marshal Phillips

            Yes, using a dated term like hippy is rather silly today.

          • Demon Teddy Bear

            Deliberate misunderstanding indicates dishonesty.

          • Marshal Phillips

            Words are flexible and people misuse them all the time. Hippy is just an old descriptive word which is out of date. When used today many are using it in a disparaging way. It would be more accurate to say “casual” or “informal” rather than the old now silly word hippy to describe some current CofE liturgy

    • Tilly

      Well it was only created because some bloke wanted to divorce his wife, so giving ladies authority was not on the
      agenda for a while. But atleast they admit women exist now.
      I thing the whole of Christianity has always been confused by Jesus being a Jew and his followers thinking christ’s message having a gender.

  • Phil Rowlands

    Women’s Ordination as a stalking horse for
    liberal religion. This is the case in the CoE. It is why approving this measure
    will seal the fate of the established church. The advent of women bishops will
    solidify the control of liberals over the church hierarchy and thus trigger the
    inevitable outflow of conservatives from the CoE. It will become a self-reinforcing
    dynamic. As more conservatives leave, the liberal agenda will become easier to
    enact – thus driving out more conservatives. There are plenty of liberals who
    want to see this happen but most of them won’t join let alone contribute
    towards the resulting church. They are only interested in removing an opponent
    of the post-modern worldview. Within 20 years the CoE will be either deserted,
    bankrupt, and disestablished, or deserted and funded by the Governent,

    • Daryl Martin

      The problem I have Phil, is that I think the conservative position is biblical, but I also believe the liberal position is biblical. Of course it depends how you define conservative and how you define liberal. Perhaps that makes me a liberal conservative or a conservative liberal?

      • Phil Rowlands

        Daryl

        The issue I have with the liberals is this. If you are overweight you sign up to a fitness instructor to get to back into shape. You go under his authority. It feels right to stay in bed and not go for the run, it feels right to eat cream cakes. But you are under his authority so you do it because you have made that commitment first and foremost , it is good for you personally and it is also good for society (less bills for say treating fat people in hospital etc)

        If you are free to choose which bits of your health and fitness are under authority of the trainer or not on the basis of “it feels right” then you are not under their authority at all and the training will not work.

        So to go back to what we were talking about.

        In the end the liberals make their desires and effectively themselves, their own god.

        Phil

        • Daryl Martin

          Thanks Phil. I guess the liberals (again it depends how you define ‘liberals’, they come in all shapes and sizes as do the conservatives), would say that they love the Bible and hold it in great esteem and do come under its authority. They would also say that they love Jesus and come under his authority. Certainly I know liberals who would agree with these statements. In my experience the churches that are growing tend to be those that are led by men (and women) who are in love with Jesus and love the scriptures. Whether the leaders are reformed or liberal is secondary. Oh, and weren’t you just a little unkind to Archbishop Welby in a recent post?

          • Phil Rowlands

            My experience with Liberals goes something like this ” I want to live my life as I want therefore I believe in a God of love that lets me do whatever I want.” They don’t seem to get that no God of love would ever do that……It would not be love if he did. Perhaps more to the point, it means that deep down they love themselves more than God.

            A few months ago I was a Church meeting where Welby spoke. He said his day felt like he was arranging the Deck Chairs on the Titanic. He seemed to make light of it which annoyed me because he has no business arranging Deck Chairs! He is the Captain and he should act like one or let someone else take over.

            Mind you the good ship CofE hit the ice berg last December with WBs. Acceptance of homosexual behaviour will simply just punch another bigger hole below the water line!

            BTW “wet” Paul or “wet” Peter or “wet” Jesus for that matter, the association just does not fit what we read about them.

            But “Wet” Welby?

            You judge….

            Phil

          • Daryl Martin

            Phil, I can see you’ve had some bad experiences of ‘liberals’. Most of my christian life I’ve been solidly in the reformed tradition, firmly believing that ‘liberals’ couldn’t possibly be Christians. Then I met liberals who actually were devoted to Jesus as Lord and had a high view of scripture. I’ve had to do some re-thinking. Is it possible for there to be some love and understanding between the two camps or does it have to be all out war. Our vicar is hardline reformed but his greatest supporters in the church are quite liberal. The danger is that he will gather fellow hardliners around him and close his mind to other (scriptural) points of view whic, though they don’t have to be agreed with, must at least be respected. Go well.

      • justejudexultionis

        It makes you confused.

    • Coniston

      Much of the Church of England (and most of its bishops – not all) have become secularised, and it is now in its post-Christian phase. It is following in the footsteps of the American Episcopal Church which is becoming (has become?) a heretical sect.

  • steveherts

    The Church of England only appoints liberal leftist Bishops that accept and promote its desire to compromise with whatever secular trend happens to be fashionable. Why should the appointment of a Conservative Bishop (yet to take place) be heralded as some great concession? All Bishops should hold to the truths of the faith as expressed in the Creeds and the 39 articles-they happily give notional assent to these but inwardly reject them. Within a generation-the Church led by women and feminised men (in the main) will just be a hollow shell-presiding over empty pews and searching for ever more absurd ways to appear “relevant”. Hence, in a country which is in desperate need of spiritual and moral guidance it offers nothing of substance, its liberal, hopelessly compromised message merely reflects the mess and confusion of the nation rather than offering the light of Christ.It speaks with diminishing authority, and hence has nothing to offer the nation. Clear the benches of these hopeless, hapless Bishops and put in place real men of faith not afraid to proclaim the word of Christ. In the meantime, those of us who yearn for the Church of England once again to proclaim the true faith as received by its forefathers can look to the USA and the wonderful progress of the Anglican Church of North America-true to the faith and blessed accordingly- free from Gay Bishops, feminists and their Christ denying works.

    • Christian

      Well said, superbly put

    • Ken

      “Conservative” does not mean Tory! A Conservative Evangelical could be a socilaist. Interesting that the conservative rural shires (eg Gloucestershire) have been keenest to have women bishops, while multi-ethnic London voted against….

      • steveherts

        Yes, ‘Conservative’ should be with a small ‘c’ and does not refer to any political affiliation but to those who accept and affirm a biblically based orthodox faith rooted in the creeds and the articles of religion.

      • justejudexultionis

        I am a lifelong socialist and social utopian. I am also a Reformed (Calvinistic) Baptist.

    • David

      Amen to that !

  • Chris Ranmore

    Who in their right mind would take any notice of St Paul’s views? It’s clear from his writings that he was very much a man of his times, pre-occupied with earthly issues and far from divinely inspired.

    • steveherts

      Someone who accepted his message that Jesus is the Son of God, the redeemer of the world and that the only way to stand righteous before God the Father was by the grace of God (not by our own efforts) received through faith in Christ. Anyone who rejects Christ as the redeemer and salvation of the world would of course also reject St Paul as an imposter.

      • Christian

        Normally I fnd it painful watching someone destroyed but that was a pleasure

        • callingallcomets

          Isn’t it odd that the bulk of comments on these “religion of love” posts drip with poisonous contempt…..it’s as if the Speccie has been swarmed by Damian Thompson groupies……

  • steveherts

    The motley collection of pretend vicars with Justin Welby form one of the ugliest most distressing pictures I have seen for some time. Prepare for empty pews, endless coffee mornings and pseudo-feminist victim centred homilies-anything and everything but a Christ centred message. What the liberals don’t get is that faith is revealed and received through Holy Scripture not made up ad hoc in line with the latest secular, morally relativist trend.

    • Demon Teddy Bear

      Well the liberals are all state appointees in search of careers. Their beliefs are whatever the establishment says they must be. The real Christians are never appointed as bishops for just this reason.
      The amusing thing is that they know it, too. That’s the real reason for the appointment of a token con-evo – that the authority of the bishops is visibly undermined by the fact that the churches that everyone knows and respects are not represented by the timeservers.
      I imagine the priestesses will now commence a persecution, in the old fashioned way that created Methodism.

  • John Byde

    Newton’s Fourth Law of Motion – when churches liberalise, the membership heads for the doors. Look at the US. I can’t think of any church that has bucked this trend. Anyone who still wants religion, wants the real thing. If all they want is a warm, fuzzy, aren’t-we-wonderful feeling of gooiness, they can find it already elsewhere.

    • Damaris Tighe

      Which is why Islam is doing so well.

    • steveherts

      Yes liberal ‘happy talk’ which is me-centred offers nothing, it rots the Church from within.

      • Damaris Tighe

        There’s something horrible called ‘messy church’.

        • Phil Rowlands

          Messy Church is for kids (aged 3 to 7)

          It works OK…for kids that is.

          • Damaris Tighe

            Oh, ok, I take it back, I thought it was a ‘family church’.

  • Christian

    If ever a picture spoke a thousand words…….short haired, feminist, lesbianesque. You could accurately predict their views on every topic. Hopeless

    • Damaris Tighe

      Just because they have short hair doesn’t mean they’re ‘feminist, lesbianesque’! More to the point, they’re middle-aged & elderly women (who tend to keep their hair short because hair changes with age) & such a church won’t attract the young men who most need its civilising influence.

      • $3572001

        The women priests in this picture are middle-aged and elderly because it was a service celebrating the 20th anniversary of the ordination of women. All these women (I am one of them, though out of shot) had served 20 years in the ministry. They were therefore bound to be at least middle aged – even a woman ordained in her mid-twenties in 1994 would be in her mid-forties by now. There were also plenty of other women priests at the celebration who had been ordained since then. Many were young and long-haired…. I can’t comment on their sexual orientation because you can’t tell that by looking at someone… Women have been in the majority in the pews in the church for many centuries (Diamaid Macculloch traces it back to the Reformation in his history of that period. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that women priests mean that men are driven away from the church, and the church of which I am a vicar has a good (and growing) number of men of all ages. I am sorry to pour the cold water of facts on the rather fevered contributions of some commentators on this thread, but nothing in any of the research that has been done recently attributes any decline in the Church of England to the gender of the vicar.

        • Damaris Tighe

          Thanks for the info – but please, I made a point of saying that their sexual orientation couldn’t be inferred from the photo in reply to the previous post which called them ‘lesbianesque’. I also explained why their hair may be short – also in reply to the previous post.

        • Phil Rowlands

          “There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that women priests mean that
          men are driven away from the church, and the church of which I am a
          vicar has a good (and growing) number of men of all ages.”

          There is plenty of evidence that a feminised church is not attractive to men. Look at the research quoted above and if you want a better example look at TEC. TEC is not only feminised, you also have homosexual weddings celebrated. This would be bad enough, but it does not stop there, they are celebrated even when the guy (and usually it is the guy) has left a family to embrace the homosexual lifestyle. The family are devastated and what do TEC do? They are pleased for him and in time marry him to his new boyfriend. The worst though is senior ministers in TEC stating publicly that abortion is a blessing! No, I am not making this up, check it out for yourselves.

          BTW we have had a female priest for the last two years. For 4 consecutive services I did a head count, the number of men ranged from around 12 to 16% of the congregation. We recently had an Bible believing evangelical priest take over. Not only has the total number for each service at least doubled in only three months but the percentage of men is now more like 40% and growing each week. What is more interesting is that even the women seem happier and enjoy a listening to a man who actually believes what the Bible says.

          • Damaris Tighe

            What is TEC?

          • Phil Rowlands

            The episcopal church …anglican

          • Liz

            Tough shit. Who needs sexists?

          • Phil Rowlands

            Nice measured pointless comment there Liz

            Try commenting on the substance of what is discussed rather than just hand out insults.

            You’re not a Anglican female Priest by any chance?

          • Damaris Tighe

            It sounds as if TEC has gone pagan.

        • http://virginmedia.com/ Peter Charnley

          You write:
          “…..but nothing in any of the research that has been done recently attributes any decline in the Church of England to the gender of the vicar.”

          You really do live in a world of your own. Or perhaps I should say, more poignantly, a feminist dominated world of your own. I said in another comment elsewhere that liberal theology is, by definition, parasitical. It is parasitical because it fails to convert people. It fails to convert people because it fails to challenge and confront people about themselves and the society in which they live. Gender egalitarianism (which has nothing to do with true equality) is probably the most destruction and evil illusion that has ever been embraced by the human race. As a female cleric you epitomise that grotesque error. A terrible mistake that will eventually be acknowledged as such by both human history and God.

      • Christian

        You have short hair don’t you………..? Whoops!

        • Damaris Tighe

          Medium length.

        • Pufferfish

          Christian, have you ever thought of changing your name? It doesn’t seem to match your attitude.

          • Christian

            You appear to think Christians are robots with shit eating grins

          • Pufferfish

            Christian is as Christian does.

          • Christian

            Christianity is the ideal, Christians are the flawed who follow the ideal

          • Pufferfish

            You need to be trying, at least.

  • Ken

    Orthodox Anglo Catholics are in the same boat, but most of us are hopeful that the new arrangements can work. Of course the Reform group should have a diocesan bishop, as should the ACs. Around 25% of the CoE is unhappy with women priests yet we have people like Cameron and the gruesome Tony Baldry telling us to get in line with PC thinking….
    The sad thing about women priests is that so many of them are such drab, talentless individuals – many took to orders as an alternative to social work or as something to do when the kids grew up. And they are discouraging able, orthodox males from seeking ordination.

    • Damaris Tighe

      I’m afraid the future for the C of E is a thoroughly feminised institution run by grannies (just look at that picture). It will hemorrhage men (just look at the average congregation) & young native men who want to become religious will turn to Islam instead – simply because it has testosterone.

      • Liz

        Better than being run by perverted grandads.

        • Gwangi

          Ah but behind every perverted granddad is a great perverted woman who made him that way eh?
          (Well that is what feminists always claim whenever men do anything good or great – so by the same token, the equal and opposite is true. Got that Mrs Hitler?)

          • mustbenice

            I’ve been reading your mummy comments. Sorry she abused you. Get help.

          • Rosy

            Huh?

      • mandelson

        I agree Vicar of Dibley v Al Baghdadi is a no contest.

    • steveherts

      Most hold liberal, revisionist views not only with regard to ethics but also in relation to the foundational doctrines of the faith such as the uniqueness and exclusiveness of Christ as redeemer, hence their message has no power and no authority. It will simply lead to empty churches which they will use terms such as ‘spiritual spaces’ to describe- anything and everything but a Christ-centred message.

      • Damaris Tighe

        “their message has no power & no authority” – & into that vacuum come messages sounding as if they have power & authority which are far, very far, less benign.

      • Guest

        Empty churches. Fucking marvellous. Here’s hoping!

        • steveherts

          Wonderful reply, very creative and so elegantly expressed.When man stops worshipping God he worships gods-gods of his own making based on myths-history is littered with the consequences-Nazism, Communism, Stalinism-the millions dead-the victims of the man-centred rationalism testify to that. Full churches praising God the Father, the creator of all, the giver of life- good, empty churches bad because thats when any kind of myth fills the vacuum. Go in peace.

    • Guest

      Haha! Brilliant comedy comment 😀

  • johnl

    Ken “conservative does not mean Tory…. They could be socialists …

  • Daryl Martin

    Good article. Well done. Our own church is growing vigorously, and our minister is a hard line member of Reform. He manipulated the PCC into rejecting Pilling before any of them had actually read it. If you talk privately to PCC members, few of them would actually back the Reformed position on key issues, and that would apply to probably a majority of the congregation, some of whom won’t joint the electoral roll because of the hardline attitude. I think we should stop hurling bible verses at our ‘opponents’ like hand grenades and see them instead as fellow members of the Body of Christ who see some things differently.

    • Phil Rowlands

      Daryl

      It seems that from your statement that it is just as well that the Church is not yet a complete democracy.

      Leading the Church is the Vicars job Daryl…..! He isn’t there to tell you what you want to hear, he is there to lead and that is not usually what you came to Church for.

      BTW he seems to be doing an excellent job.

      Try telling him sometimes rather than stabbing him in the back whenever you get the chance.

      • Daryl Martin

        Thanks Roland. Appreciate your honesty. I can assure you that the vicar has had my full support and I’ve been honest with him at all times, so there’s no back stabbing. I agree though that the vicar is there to lead. The difficulty comes when he takes a position and expects people to line up behind him on it when they may see things differently.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    I’m against women priests. But then I’m against all priests.

  • http://willcookson.wordpress.com Will Cookson

    Interesting article and I do see the Church of England being “miraculous” in holding together people of very different traditions.

    I think that the article does overstate the position of Reform. It is often trotted out that conservative churches such as Reform are growing more rapidly than others. However, a major study and report at the beginning of the year “From anecdote to evidence” shows that this is not the case. Two key findings showed that neither the theological tradition or the gender of the priest made any significant difference to growth or decline. The far greater contributions to growth came through leadership, having a clear mission, involvement of lay people, active engagement in the community, nurturing of peoples faith etc.

    So, the Church of England has seen a big decline in recent decades but that appears to have bottomed out and there are good signs of growth occurring all over the church – and most of recently appointed Bishops realise the need to engage with reports like “From anecdote to evidence” and are changing structures to help that be the case.

    • Phil Rowlands

      ” Two key findings showed that neither the theological tradition or the
      gender of the priest made any significant difference to growth or
      decline.”

      Conservative Churches are growing more rapidly than others. You don’t need to look just a Reform. Look at the Anglican Church world wide.

      Are the liberals growing overall? No

      Are they in massive decline? Yes

      • http://willcookson.wordpress.com Will Cookson

        You seem to make a statement and then assume because you have made it that it is right!

        The report I quoted from shows that your statement on conservative churches (not sure why you capitalised it) is wrong and your validation of your statement by comparing overseas is therefore an invalid argument.

        So therefore the corollary statements you make are more accurately:

        Are the liberal growing overall? In some areas they are and some they are not – just like the other streams

        Are they in massive decline? No.

        • Phil Rowlands

          E.g. TEC is in massive decline, the Church in Wales is in massive decline, Both are hardline liberal. There are within these there are some that buck the trend it is true. But you say that these can be discounted because they are foreign?

          These are facts Will. Just as much as your “report” commissioned to show…..well what exactly.

          BTW does anyone seriously doubt that if we had decided on say a Bible believing Nigerian Bishop instead of “wet” Welby for AoC then the CofE might just have a future.

          Just…..

  • The_greyhound

    It’s always seemed to me that the Cof E is more worried about fitting in with the Guardian’s view of the world than it is conforming to the practices of the Primitive Church, or indeed the practices of other mainstream Churches. I don’t have any issue with the lady vicars I have met (far from it) but the fact remains that all this equalitarian stuff flies directly in the face of 2000 years of tradition The Church can be Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic or it can have women bishops – but not both.

  • Liz

    Masculinised spirituality is the greatest affront to women, humanity and if you believe in that sort of thing, the divine. It’s a pustulent boil on human history, the whole revolting edifice needs to be brought tumbling down.

    • Phil Rowlands

      Read the comment Liz.

      Nobody is talking about masculinised spirituality at all.

      Christian teachings on complementarianism are not an affront to women.

      Your feminist man hating rant is though and damages relationships at the deepest level.

      Ask any real woman.

      • mustbenice

        Saying things like “ask any real woman” marks you out as a twat who can safely be ignored. Ask any real man.

        • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

          I had to laugh at that one!

      • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

        Christian teachings on complementarianism are not an affront to women.
        They’re an affront to me, as most all-deciding ‘complementarianism’ is. But then I’m not a Christian.

        • Grace Ironwood

          Ah, Swanky, here you are.amongst stale spectator debates :)

          I thought you were not a believer in gay marriage. The idea of complementarity underlies procreative marriage between a man and a woman, so why knocking it ??

          Complementarity makes sense to me as between the sexes in a Camille Paglia kind of way as well as a Christian kind of way
          ( not being a believer but a cultural supporter in a Straussian kind of way)

          • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

            Sexual complementarity I will acknowledge. But that’s it. Congrats on being a Straussian kind of supporter. : )

          • Grace Ironwood

            Need all supporters you can get, however patronising they may be. :) . Sincerely. Rather Christianity than relativist nihilism. Much rather Christianity than Islam.

      • Rosy

        As opposed to asking a fake one? No true Scotsman I guess….

    • Gwangi

      MIXED METAPHOR ALERT!
      Listen my little manhating feminut, a ‘boil’ cannot ‘be brought tumbling down’ – it can be burst or lanced. It cannot roll or fall down, pet.
      How about you ask nurse for a dictionary for Winterval eh? Then you can look up HYPOCRISY and see yourself.
      Women are NO MORE MORAL than men. They pressured and motivated men to do bad things in history. BUT men have also done most GOOD things in history, invented everything, took risks, strived, built, created.
      You are just a misandirst weirdo. Let’s face it. I wonder why? Did daddy bounce you on his knee a little too intimately?

  • justejudexultionis

    I am glad that I am a Reformed Baptist.

  • http://ukip.com ukipifyouwantto

    I’d just like to say that you’re a hardman to please.

  • jorjun

    There’s always one or two women with enough balls to bishop. For the vasty majority, there will now be an undercover Bishop behind the official one. And he will be a newly unworthy man.

    • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

      ‘enough balls to bishop’: love it!

  • Marshal Phillips

    Ah, the stately Church of England…. still with the “woman” problem… since its beginning when Henry VIII wanted a divorce. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

    One would never mistake that gathering for a photo-shoot of Victoria’s Secret. And just imagine: they’re all experts of one kind or another on the bible. The mind boggles.

  • Sam Martini

    The departure of Reform (but it won’t happen) would be a huge blessing for the Church of England.

    • justejudexultionis

      If ministers like David Holloway were serious about spreading the Gospel they would have left the C of E years ago, instead of looking down their noses at us Free Church believers. I guess they just like the status and security of the Establishment too much…

      • Sam Martini

        They have this terrible, cynical expression for the Church of England, ‘It’s a good boat to fish from’. It shows that they don’t care about the parish structure or the soul of the C of E, just their own agenda.

  • justejudexultionis

    Is it not somewhat ironic (and perhaps even hypocritical) for Reform to have a female director while condemning female headship in regular ministry? Does Reform not see that this makes a nonsense of their views? Frankly, though, who cares what the Church of England thinks on the issue of female headship. Anybody who takes the Bible and its authority as the Word of God seriously left the C of E years ago? It is, as the Puritans used to say, a church ‘but halfly reformed’ and a ‘Papist mingle-mangle’. There is no warrant for female headship and/or preaching in the context of regular/settle ministry in the Church of Jesus Christ. Given that the world rejected Jesus Christ from the very beginning, why should we embrace its corruption and vanity?

    SDG

  • Sam Martini

    The departure of Reform (it won’t happen) would be nothing but a blessing for the Church of England. Sorry for the repost – my tech limitations.

  • Catherine Waterman

    I tell you what would really put the fear of God up those backward evangelicals – a campaign for women clergy to reclaim the sacred titles of Priestess and High Priestess.

    Even the most progressive of male Bishops would be holding up a bunch of garlic and a crucifix to ward off the evil of a reclaimed Priestess. Oh yes, misogyny would be out of the closet with a capital ‘M’.

    • Grace Ironwood

      Women shouldn’t be priests – they never forgive anything :)

      On the other hand, your priestess, surely leading the worship of the goddess, will complete the Anglican journey into paganism,

  • Grace Ironwood

    They believe in women bishops, gay marriage and global warming. God not so much,
    Scriptures get the sociological treatment- so they hold the truth values of secularism higher than the scriptures.

    • Catherine Waterman

      Too right! I was only joking, of course. But there is unconscious misogyny in the church’s reluctance to accept women priests and bishops. This is why the femininised titles of Priestess and High Priestess would bring this fear to the fore. Such a demand from women clergy would cause a riot !

      I’m reminded of the time when the local evangelical preacher came knocking at my door, with a group of women from his congregation – they were not Jehovah’s Witnesses either. The local church had become Born Again. When the preacher asked if I’d like to join his congregation, my mischievous self couldn’t resist. I told him I was a Pagan – not exactly true as I’m not religious.

      Any way, his eyes widened as he stepped backwards, his flock of women equally wide eyed and retreating. Keeping eye contact, he had the audacity to make a sign of the cross with his hands, uttering some kind of blessing.

      So I did a bit of hand waving myself, making a cross within a circle (the astrological symbol for planet Earth). The group sped off without looking back – no doubt fearful of an imaginary curse from a she-Devil !

      Oooh, I can be naughty sometimes!

  • Stuart Kimber

    Thank you for this very well-informed article.
    That makes a refreshing change!!

  • carl jacobs

    Those represented by Reform will leave little by little. They will follow the Anglo-Catholics out the door. With each additional departure, the center of mass in the CoE will move a little more towards the Liberal side of the religious spectrum. The coming influx of heterodox women bishops (and make no mistake, they will be heterodox) will push it even more to the left. With each incremental movement, more conservatives will depart – thus reducing the resistance to future movement towards the left. The awful ‘push-pull’ of liberal leadership on membership will work its inevitable outcome.

    Next up will be the legitimization of homosexuality. And the good folks at HTB will suddenly find themselves in the position of Reform. It will start all over again and with the same inevitable outcome. Now if you read “Thinking Anglicans” this will be an ideal outcome. The troglodytes and their reactionary theology will have been banished. If you are in AMiE you won’t care much one way or the other. The past is past. But if you have some institutional loyalty to the CoE, you should care a great deal. Because the readership of “Thinking Anglicans” can’t sustain your church. You need laity. By and large, liberal religion is what non-believers think people “who need that sort of thing” should participate in. They find it safe for Modernity. They don’t find it interesting or particularly useful.

    Twenty years from now, those exiled Reform churches will still be around. But who will be in the CoE?

  • jorjun

    The issue is more about can the Christian church be stretched so far from its original premise and remain a Christian church or can’t we just start again, declare the Law of Liberty (every man & every woman is a star), that God is a reality in our hearts rather than external, and construct some new architecture? Not buildings our Norman oppressors originally designed to awe us in to submissive obedience*, but something brand new in light of Einstein’s revelations & the Pope’s modern day irrelevance?

    * and piety, OK accepted.

  • jorjun

    Negligence leads to a drift left. Only strong, positive, resolute institutions can prevent this continual drift. Thus the Cameroon party & the C. of E. fulfil the wishes of the left by simple non-resistance. But Protestantism was always going to move this way. It will halt when it is finally an atheist institution. Its ultimate destiny is secular museum.

  • http://womeninthechurch.co.uk/ Andrew and Alison Chapman

    The head of woman is man, according to the holy scriptures (1 Corinthians 11.3), so it is turning God’s order upside down to have a woman in the position of head of a diocese. The requirement to take the Oath (or affirmation) of Canonical Obedience to the diocesan bishop, irrespective of whether the parish has opted for alternative oversight, puts the bible-believing minister in an impossible position. I pray that he or she (there being a possible case for female deacons) will refuse to take the oath (or affirmation), rather than compromise on biblical truth. It is better to obey God than man (Acts 4.19, Acts 5.29, Daniel 6.10). Andrew.

  • http://virginmedia.com/ Peter Charnley

    Liberal theology is, by definition, parasitical and totally undermines the power of the bible to speak out over and above human politics and contemporary social trends – which are presently totally dominated by feminism. But these things inevitably change. And just as Professor Howard S. Schwartz of Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan, USA wrote in 2001, “I have no doubt that, someday, the distortions of the truth by the radical feminists of our time will eventually be seen to have been the greatest intellectual crime of the second half of the twentieth century” – the Church of England will one day realise that it made a terrible mistake in 2014.

  • Dominic Stockford

    Paul told Christian women to cover their heads in worship so that they wouldn’t be confused with the prostitutes in the pagan temples, who went around with their hair down. Not an issue today.

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