Good to hear from the Catholic Group in Synod. They perform a necessary and generally thankless task. Comparing their statement with what the Archbishops are proposing, though, a few questions remain. Here is what they said:
From the Catholic Group in General Synod
Responding to the statement of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York Re. forthcoming women bishops debates
The Catholic Group in General Synod is grateful to the Archbishops for their suggestion of a possible way forward for the Church of England, both to enable the consecration of women bishops and to provide for those who cannot in conscience accept the ministry of women bishops. We are particularly grateful for their recognition of the need for bishops with jurisdiction in their own right to minister to us, and to all those who share our convictions.
We look forward to studying the amendments in detail when they are published. We very much hope that they will provide ‘nominated bishops’ who will be real leaders in mission and ministry. It is also be vital that the amendments provide for us to continue to hold a principled theological position, looking to the faith and order of the undivided Church. We believe that the Church will be better served by the consistency of a national scheme of provision.
The Catholic Group is wholly committed to securing provision within the Church of England.Canon Simon Killwick
are proposing that the Flying Bishop Substitutes (I cannot help thinking of them as "Grounded Bishops") will have jurisdiction, and that this jurisdiction does not come from the Diocesan Bishops but "from the measure". The diocesan bishop would have every right to exercise ministry of any sort in any parish is his or her diocese, "the diocesan would in practice refrain from exercising certain of his or her functions in such a parish" (a parish which had written a letter asking for special treatment).
I hope members of the Catholic group will press Synod on this. What are the 'certain functions' which the diocesan will not exercise? Will it include the selection of candidates for ordination?
Will it include all confirmations in parishes which ask for special provision?
Moreover, who will monitor this? In the bad old Act of Synod days, with PEVs and all the rest, the Archbishops took an active interest in how the Act was being operated, and did a bit of gentle leaning on episcopal colleagues who ignored the Bishops' Guidelines. Now, it appears that everything will be decided by the Diocesan Bishop (after consulting, not with disaffected parishes, but with their own Diocesan Synod).
So what safeguards are there for any parish, when the Diocesan Bishop decides she has had enough of all this and will disregard any guidelines?
And who will choose the "Nominated Bishop" for any diocese? In the PEV system, the Archbishops consulted widely and ensured that those appointed were themselves opposed to women's ordination. Will the same apply in the new circumstances? Surely not - and it would be hard to find anyone prepared to act as a Nominated Bishop (with jurisdiction) whose jurisdiction in reality is hedged about by a Diocesan Bishop who can change the rules whenever s/he pleases. But it is a good question, so again I hope some member of the Catholic Group will ask it, and tell us the answer.
And what of those ordained by women 'bishops'? At present such people, male or female, may not be licensed to officiate in the Church of England. Indeed I understand that even when we have women bishops, those ordained by women bishops overseas will still have orders which the Church of England cannot recognise.
Will it be possible for ordinands to require ordination from the hands of a Nominated Bishop? That has been a sticking point for many Diocesan bishops in the present dispensation.
Will parishes have the right to refuse the ministry of those ordained by women 'bishops'?
These are just a few of the many questions which must be answered before anyone should accept the Archbishops' amendments as worthwhile.
It looks terribly as though what is being proposed is well intentioned, but depends upon human beings always acting honourably. They have not in the past, and it is certain they will not in future. Naturally every diocesan bishop will consider his/her arrangements to be absolutely fair; but who is to monitor this fairness? Call me cynical if you will; once, before I became a Provincial Bishop and had to deal with Diocesan Bishops and their Archdeacons, I was just an innocent trusting babe. The iron entered my soul when I discovered that promises made ("Just rescind the votes: we promise you will have a male priest") have been broken more often than not.
I am sure Canon Killwick and the catholic group will do their best for those who feel they must refuse the offer from Pope Benedict. I hope they and the Archbishops get something worthwhile from the July Synod; but I have a horrid feeling that they will come down the steps of the York Synod saying "I have a letter here giving us the firmest of promises: it will be peace in our time".
17 hours ago