Monday, 31 January 2011

Resolutions, Women, Church and Choices

In regard to church life, there are two stances that I take 

1. I support the calling of all people to all ministries within the church if they are God-given and demonstrable (ie the same marker that I was asked to stand by). 

2. I defend the right of anyone to disagree with the above, and believe that a family should be strong enough to accommodate both/other/all points of view

The tension in holding these two views brings with them some consequences for me. I was looking at the Resolutions as they stand at the moment, and given that they are not much published on the web, include them here: 

Below are the texts of Resolutions A and B, and the provision for Alternative Episcopal Oversight, commonly known as Resolution C, as they apply to parishes. They should be read in the context of the legislation that put them in place – i.e., The Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1992 (Resolutions A and B) and the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993 (Resolution C). 
Resolution A
That this Parochial Church Council would not accept a woman as the minister who presides at or celebrates the Holy Communion or pronounces the Absolution in the parish.
Resolution B
That this parochial church council would not accept a woman as the incumbent or Priest-in-Charge of the benefice or as a Team Vicar for the benefice.
Resolution C
Where the Parochial Church Council of any parish has passed one or both of the resolutions set out in Schedule 1 to the Measure, a decision may be taken jointly by the minister and the council to petition the diocesan bishop concerned to the effect that appropriate episcopal duties in the parish should be carried out in accordance with this Act of Synod
I will start looking at parishes soon as I move to incumbency, so rather than making blanket-presumptions, thought it best to examine the Resolutions. My churchmanship means that I am more likely to come across them. For my part, I believe that I could minister in a parish community that has A and B in place. It is not my role, I believe, to agree with a parish community - but rather to defend the rights of others to hold their views with integrity. I am, of course, in favour of the ordination and consecration of woman - and not even that - anyone whom God calls, whatever their 'label'. I would also hope that a confessing community would also allow me the same dignity. Mutual challenge in those situations can only be healthy if undertaken with absolute respect and openness. I cannot minister to a parish with Res. C in place for the following reason: I cook for my kids, and if they decide that they don't like my cooking we will talk about it, but they will not be allowed to invite another dad in to do it for them. Simple. 

The inverse of all of this is that some would remove all ability for dissenters to dissent, will force issues in some circumstances, and in those moments, people get hurt and become more entrenched in their political and theological perspective. Dialogue dies with prematurity. Churchmouse brought to my attention today a Paper tabled by Frank Field MP that seeks, to my eyes, to force hands. To force legislation in favour of anything renders it forced. Force removes compromise, silences voices, removes choice. The Church of England may stop being an adverse place for some, but it will surely become adverse for others instead - and I do not believe that any of us really want 'the other side' of any argument to suffer the pain that we ourselves may have suffered (and I acknowledge the endless pain in so much of this). Measures like the Resolutions that allow people integrity of choice are, to me, helpful things. We cannot all agree all of the time, and neither should we. We can listen though. 


  1. Listening and agreeing to disagree with compassion and respect are essential hallmarks of any healthy church in my view.

  2. I have to regretfully disagree. Putting off voting on the Resolutions for 15 years has not led to an improvement in our situation; if anything it has become worse. I think Mary Mags' approach far better.

    In some ways it is a good thing I shall be leaving the CofE shortly (due to moving to a RC country) because being chased out of my church due to the via media position hitherto adopted being abandoned would make me very sad indeed (it may not go that way, but I suspect the PCC of being mainly pro-Resolutions A and B).

    I'm afraid I shall probably be writing a letter to Frank Field to thank him for his sense on this issue, as so many before (he has been my "home" MP for as long as I can remember).

  3. Yes, the Mary Mags way exemplified grace. I know of a parish who has to make options because it was in vacancy, and have done the gracious tension that you talk of for 20 years at least.

    I want communities to disagree properly. Yes, I know of no reason why anyone should not be ordained per the post, but I fear for the alternative which will be the same but with another name above the door - that is, silenced voices of people who have deeply held views. No-one should be silent, and everyone should have a home.

    (For the rest of you, the Mary Mags way was to acknowledge that exponents at the extremes of the spectrum worshipped in the same church. Resolutions were never passed as it would have been hurtful - and amen to that. Sadly, many places are well beyond that)

    As a priest I am called to serve, and not just those of my politic. I feel called to minister in places where Resolutions are more common, so need to have a view. This is the best in a bad situation.

  4. The "Resolutions were never passed as it would have been hurtful - and amen to that." stance is what has persisted at LSM for a long while, but with the upcoming interregnum that spectre has re-emerged at the feast. Hopefully I am just catastrophising, but I know it's a matter of concern, and not just to me.

    And when Mary Mags did decide fully to accept women's ministry, they did the very sensible thing of printing who would be celebrating which Mass on a given Sunday in the newsletter, so people who really couldn't cope with female priests could simply come to one of the other two Masses that day.

    I still haven't worked out where my faith journey will lead me in a RC country where the only Anglican church shut down some years back (and would have been impossible to get there and back in a day, anyway).

  5. I have pondered and think I may have put words badly regarding Resolutions

    - in and of themselves they are an indicator that generosity of difference has been found lacking (hence the joy of the Mary Mags Stance), and of course I would prefer to see them gone

    - in their place should be grace and courage enough to let alternative views exist and live. The resolutions encase a lack of that, in my opinion.

    As for your journey FA, knowing you as I do, I cannot imagine for a moment that a day's journey, alternative denomination or anything else hold you back from witnessing to your God. I offer my blessings and warm wish to you for it, and hope always that you will me know how things work out.

  6. With regard to the Resolutions, I think we are basically singing from the same hymn sheet.

    With regard to the rest, I have to say a big THANK YOU to you for nudging me into remembering why I'm moving: it is a thin place; a place with omnipresent God; a place where every village's patronal festival is reported in the newspaper.

    I know we've only met in person once, and that when I was hideously unwell; but I'll certainly keep in touch and I will be keeping a blog (probably starting soonish) about living in Corsica, and I'll send you the link once there's any content!



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