English Episcopate

It seems that our cousins in the Church of England have voted in favour of bringing in legislation which will result in bishops being consecrated who happen to be female.

We debated and voted on this a few years ago. It was quite a good debate, I seem to remember. Charitable and thoughtful and followed by an very strong vote in favour of changing the legislation to allow both male and female candidates to stand in episcopal elections.

There seem to be more people in England who are unhappy with this potential change. Indeed, it is hard not to look across the border and see a rather unhappy church. The odd thing is seeing on blogs people described as catholics who are opposed to the ordination of women as priests and bishops. Most of the people I know best in the church have been formed within a catholic sensiblity and work in a church in which the catholic aspirations of the Oxford Movement were embraced with vigour. And yet, almost all the people I know are in favour of the ordination of women as priests and bishops.

Which goes to show that Scotland is not England. Which I think we knew already.


  1. I think some people have a rather narrow view of what “catholic” means…they tend to consider it as “what we’ve always done,” which is the shorthand answer but no less inaccurate for being so. It can be a very hard thing to grasp catholic theology without some handles to grab onto, and the handles some folks choose happen to be no women and no gays.

    I happen to prefer the handles of liturgical worship, respect for creation and some bonnie togs to wear around the altar…but that’s just me.

  2. Aye. Bonnie togs and a passion for justice.

  3. As usual, the folk of Englanshire are just catching up with us! However, although we CAN have a woman bishop, I regret we have not yet consecrated one. Roll on the day!

  4. Am I right in thinking the English bishops, when consecrated, are going to have to put up with Flying Bishops for the objectors?

  5. “Flying bishops….”

    Yeah, when pigs fly!

  6. Chris, my understanding is that a bishop who has trouble with a congregation or clergy person in her diocese who refuse to recognise her, will be able to invite a colleague to help her to maintain the pastoral care of the diocese. This is similar to the situation in Scotland, but will be spelled out in a Code of Practise. (Note that this will not be spelled out in Canon Law in England, as the opponents of the ordination of women to the Episcopate wanted).

    I don’t know what happens with the Flying Bishops. Male bishops have had to put up with Flying Bishops.

    In my view, the Flying Bishops thing is the root of so many of the troubles in the Anglican communion. It introduced the idea that individuals and congregations should be able to choose a bishop who suited them. We have that idea in the election of a bishop to a diocese but not the idea that you have options at any one time. Once they had allowed that notion, the way was open for people to demand their own fool as bishop in contradisctinction to any diocesan. It is against catholic order and I’ve never understood how “traditionalists” adopted it with such vigour. It is the opposite of the tradition.

  7. Rosemary says

    Well, it is nearly always a bad thing when people start this kind of choice, instead of learning to work in the situation God has chosen for them, but, but, I am not sure that is actually the root of the problem.
    When a dear friend of mine, a woman then already in her forties, warm, unassuming, highly competent, funny, catholic orientated, and unthreatening, was newly ordained, and taking on her port-ordination training blocks, there was in her peer group a young man who would not speak to her – a catholic himself, so bitterly opposed to the ordination of women he could not pass the time of day with her, or even ‘see’ her.

    Allow me to direct you to a thoughtful discussion on a conservative-flavoured discussion board I frequent, which also perhaps puts some of the pain of the conservative wing of the church, though the best post, the second post on page 5 is by an evangelical who is not an Anglican.


  8. John Penman says

    It’s an interesting difference between the ‘Catholic’ wing of the Church in Scotland and that in England that the English wing are more oriented towards RC practice and spirituality than the Scots. Roman daily office, roman rite & concelebration as a frequent practice. Perhaps the history of having a strong Anglo-Papalist strain in English Anglo-Catholicism as opposed to an SEC which had a clear sense of Catholicity derived from its own liturgy and Orthodox influences expalins the difference.

  9. Interesting remark, John. I’m from the U.S. but now live and work in Canada, and have noticed that American ACs are less…precious is the only word I can find…than Canadian ACs. I wonder if it has something to do with the shared SEC/ECUSA BCP, not having to try and be AC with the thoroughly Protestant (even memorialist) 1662 BCP, or what. Maybe praying so against the grain and subscribing to the Calvinist 39 Articles, whatever Newman might have argued in #90, pushes ACs further toward traditionalism rather than catholicity?

  10. I write the above, of course, as a very spiky AC who’s wondering why all the churches he’d like to be rector of are so isolated and looked on with such suspicion…

  11. John Penman says

    Well my take on it is because we have a clearly Catholic but non-Roman liturgy/tradition etc we are less likely to regard lace/Roamnist liturgical happenings as the only sign of authentic Catholicism. Once you realise catholic identity is not synonomous with dressing like, praying like and signing up to moral or theological statements by the Bishop of Rome (who is only one Patriarch amongst many, albeit one who is due special honour by virtue of the history of the See), then you are less likely to go all funny because Benny XVI says you can’t do it.


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