Dear Archbishop Rowan is once more engaged in circle-squaring. It was handed over to the Manchester Commission, and they have been able to propose nothing; except this:
..."after more than six months work we had rejected all the options which would have involved conferring some measure of jurisdiction on someone other than the diocesan bishop. The legislation that the Revision Committee sends back to the Synod will, therefore, be on the basis that any arrangements that are made for parishes with conscientious difficulties about women’s ordination will be by way of delegation from the diocesan bishops. That much is already clear."
So that much is clear; and it is in the light of that decision that we should hear what the Archbishop is saying. In his address to Syond today he summed up the position "for both many women in the debate and most if not all traditionalists, there is a strong feeling that the Church overall is not listening to how they are defining for themselves the position they occupy, the standards to which they hold themselves accountable. What they hear is the rest of the Church saying, ‘Of course we want you – but exclusively on our terms, not yours’; which translates in the ears of many as ‘We don’t actually want you at all’."
Ipse dixit: we have been saying, as loudly as we possibly could, that delegated authority will not do. Whoever is to be our bishop must believe with us that women may not be ordained, and must have authority over us. That, says the Manchester Group, is not possible.
So what does Archbishop Rowan have in mind?
First, as so often, he askes another question: "what are the vehicles for sharing perspectives, communicating protest, yes, even, negotiating distance or separation, that might spare us a worsening of the situation and the further reduction of Christian relationship to vicious polemic and stony-faced litigation?" In other words, how do we get the jolly old Indaba process going to prevent us from reaching any conlusions?
He does hint at a way forward: Restraint. But not over women's ordination, that is clearly a done deal - despite all we were told about there being 'a time of Reception until the whole church, Eastern and Western, was of a mind'. No, restraint is what he proposes - but only over the LGBT issues (and no, that is not another version of a bacon sandwich - BLT- keep up!)
"Sometimes that may entail restraint – as I believe it does and should in the context of the Communion – though that restraint is empty and even oppressive if it then refuses to engage with those who have accepted restraint for the sake of fellowship". Restraint, maybe - but not delay over women in the episcopate, it seems. Only over Gay issues.
So it is back to circle-squaring. " Whatever we decide, we need to look for a resolution that allows some measure of continuing dignity and indeed liberty to all – in something like their own terms". Somehow, some day, the Synod will discover the magic elixir... giving us "something like" what we need. But what we need is Jurisdiction for our bishops, not lent them by women bishops when and if they see fit, but by law. And that, as the Bishop of Manchester has made clear, just is not on offer.
Rowan again: "as Christians we somehow have to add to that the question of how granting any freedom anywhere is going to set free the possibility of contributing to each other’s holiness".
Well, Rowan, we must tell you there is a way to set us free. It is to go ahead as quickly as you can to consecrate women as bishops, making no sort of provision for us at all. Any provision you make CANNOT give us what we need and have consistently asked for, so GET ON WITH IT: and set us free. Don't concern yourselves with what happens to us. The Good Lord will provide - and if Parliament's concern to ensure justice when women were first ordained is renewed this time round (by requiring there to be financial provision for us) so be it.
Only so is there any hope of your "contributing to (our) holiness". We do not want to be endlessly arguing about this issue. We have the offer of an honoured place - a real one - from the Holy Father, so just let us go. It will be sad to bid farewell to the church of our life's ministry; but that church is now just ancient history. We look to a better future. And we hope you too will enjoy your purified church with its broad open vistas without glass ceilings for women or LGBT bishops.
You said it yourself in your address to Synod; there might have to be "an unwelcome degree of distance" between us - just remember sometime though, that it was not we who chose to go, but you who made it impossible for us to stay.