Because Bishops have
wider areas of ministry the consecration of women Bishops raises
particular practical issues which have deep theological consequences.
Impinging on conscience
The Church of England accepts that
no-one can be required to accept as an article of faith or religion anything
that is not in Holy Scripture or canot be proved from it (Article
6). It is our contention that
Scripture requires and expects that presbyters in the Church be men.
When the Church of England voted
to ordain women as presbyters legislation was also introduced to protect the
conscience of those opposed to it. This position impact clergy and laity
A Church fellowship can refuse to
accept the ministry of women presbyters by passing resolutions laid down in
legislation. This requires a vote of the Parochial Church Council. However,
where a lay person is opposed but their Church goes ahead and appoints a women
presbyter they have a difficult decision. Some will continue in fellowship
but also in opposition. Others leave and sadly some, particulary
in rural areas, have found themselves unable to find a Church where they feel
the ministry accords with Scripture. Thus for some the existing legislation
does impinge upon their conscience in requiring them to accept something
they believe to be wrong.
For clergy, generally speaking, they are not required at present to accept
the oversight of women presbyters. There are women Rural Deans and
Archdeacons but these are seen as administrative roles by many (Archdeacons
were in origin Deacons not Priests).
The major difference that the Consecration
of Women as Bishops will introduce is that clergy and all congregations
with a Woman Bishop will be forced to accept the oversight, unless
some provision is made otherwise. This is seen to be particulary
serious because some clergy will feel forced to leave the
Church unless provision is made and this affects their livelihood.
will arise in many areas, including appointments and ordinations
where a Bishop has a particular role of oversight.
We recognise that many of those
in favour of women being appointed as presbyters argue their case from Scripture
and are themselves convinced that Scripture requires them to accept Women presbyters
as a matter of justice or whatever. However, we are equally convinced
that they are in fact misusing Scrpture and in doing so are aiming to introduce
legislation which will force others to accept their views.
It is understandable, particulary
for those women who feel called to ministry, that people will not see
these obections as sufficient grounds not to proceed. However, it remains the
case that those who cannot accept women Presbyters are holding to the position
which has been held almost universally by the Christian Church for 1900 years
and more and which is still the view of the majoirty of those who claim to
be Christian today.
Thus, it is not simply that their
action will exclude us, they will be driving from the Church those who uphold
what the Church has always held.
Focus of Disunity
If the Church of England creates
Women Bishops it is likely that some will be prepared to live with it, despite
disagreeing. It is hard to see how such a view can survive for long without
some provision since new clergy in particular will be required to accept the
innovation if they wish to be ordained.
Others, both laity and clergy will
feel compelled to leave the Church of England.
After the Church of England ordained
women as Presbyters over 500 clergy left the Church (based on those who took
the financial provision made for them) and more than 20 members of
the General Synod.
In addition, the rate of decline in
attendance roughly doubled so that in the decade after the decision
attendance fell by 20,000 per year compared to around 10,000 per
year in the previous decade. Furthermore, the number of
men going into full-time ordained ministry has declined dramatically.
If no provision is made it is likely
that others will wish to continue but will find ways either within the law
or outside of it to be obedient to Scripture.
Therefore, Women Bishops will become the
focus of disunity.
Undermining the Authority
Like it or not the Bible
does expect men to be Presybters. Furthermore, the Apostle
Paul does say that he did not permit women to teach or have authority
Despite this many argue
from Scripture that Women should be presbyters but all these arguments
are either a slippery slope or they are extremely convoluted.
The effect of this is in practice
to undermine the authority of Scripture.
The sad fact is that what is actually
happening is that people are not prepared to submit to the Word of God and
live by it, but rather they are forcing Scripture to yield to the prevailing
views of the culture in which we live. This is nothing new, but it is
destructive to the Christian faith.
See also: 'Women Bishops' - Cross†Way article (2012) by George Curry examining the consequences for those opposed to women bishops.
The Rochester Commission