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 Issues | Ministry | Women and ordained ministry

Part 6 : Church Society's Legal Action


Following the 1992 decision of the Church of England to permit the ordination of women priests Church Society took legal action to block this.

It might seem odd to some Christians that the Society should take such a course given the teaching of Scripture that Christians should not take a brother to court.  However, this is to misunderstand the nature of the Church of England.


The Church of England is a Church established by law. The Church is therefore governed by law and many of its own rules are passed by Parliament, or authorised by parliament.  In various areas of Church life there is therefore an assumption of the right of appeal and this is very specific in such areas of discipline and pastoral reorganization (where the appeal is to the Queen in Council).

The Society argued that in passing the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure the General Synod had exceeded its powers and that Paliament and the Crown had likewise acted improperly.  In the end the Court disagreed, but only be a majority.

The Worship and Doctrine Measure 1974 set out what had long been held that the Doctrine of the Church of England is set out in its formularies which includes the Ordinal (services for ordination).  The Measure establishes that the General Synod has no power to alter the doctrine of the Church.

To Church Society and to many others, the decision to permit the ordination of women changes self evidently changes the doctrine of the Church and in particular the Ordination of Priests service talks only about men being ordained.  The General Synod, Parliament and eventually the Courts argued that the ordination of women is not a matter of doctrine and the legislation had simply allowed that where the service talks about men, this should be taken to mean men and women.

It may seem odd to many readers that this should be the nature of the Church of England, but that is the case.  Since this is the legal position it was entirely wrong to make the change in the way they did.  The alternative would have been to grant the Synod the power to change doctrine and lived with the consequences - the Church of England would have followed the course of many others into rampant liberalism and even quicker collapse.

 

A fuller explanation of the legal process has been given by Malcolm Barker, then Assistant Secretary of the Society, in two articles published in Churchman.

 

Judicial Review of the Priests (Ordination of Women)Measure 1994.
Part 1 - by Malcolm Barker (Churchman Article)
Part 2 - by Malcolm Barker (Churchman Article)



 

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Related Links
Women Priests
BulletIntroduction
BulletNature of Christian Leadership
BulletRelevance of the Bible
BulletWhat the Bible teaches
BulletObjections
BulletResponding in the Parish

BulletChurch Society's Legal Action
BulletViews from the past

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Ministry Pages
BulletIntroduction
BulletLay Office Holders
BulletClergy Discipline
BulletBishops
BulletFalse Teachng
BulletClergy Terms of Service

Ministry - Other Sub Issues
BulletConsecration of Women Bishops
BulletSenior Appointments

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