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 Issues | Women Bishops | Guildford Submission

The following is the text of a submission made by Church Society to the Bishop of Guildford's group.



We remain convinced that the consecration of women as Bishops does not accord with the teaching of the Bible.   Furthermore, we continue to assert that, in passing the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1992, the General Synod acted contrary to the will of God and Canon A5 of the Canons of the Church of England.

We believe that the consecration of women as bishops will be detrimental to the Church and its mission and witness since such an innovation is against the revealed will of God in Scripture.

As loyal Anglicans, by God's grace, we believe and uphold the doctrine of the Church of England, in particular as confessed in the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion.   We pray and labour with others to see it provide a faithful, firm, and clear witness to the nation.   We seek to build up the people of God in the most holy faith, once for all delivered, in the parishes and places to which God has called us.

Notwithstanding any revisionist innovation introduced by the General Synod, and even supported by Parliament, to permit the consecration of women as Bishops, we shall remain loyal to Scripture and, in particular, to the biblical teaching of gender and ministry upheld by the entirety of the Christian Church since the days of the Apostles.   Furthermore, we shall remain true to our Anglican heritage.   This will, therefore, necessitate that adequate provision be made for loyal Anglicans.


Adequate Oversight

As loyal Anglicans we believe that the office of episkope is for the good of the Church, it having been part of the polity of the Church from the time of the Apostles.   We ask, therefore, to be provided with bishops who will conduct their ministry in accord with Scripture and the historic formularies of our Church.   Such ministry is summarized in Titus 1 verses 5 – 9:

I left you behind in Crete for this reason, so that you should put in order what remained to be done, and should appoint elders in every town, as I directed you:   someone who is blameless, married only once, whose children are believers, not accused of debauchery and not rebellious.   For a bishop, as God's steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or addicted to wine or violent or greedy for gain; but he must be hospitable, a lover of goodness, prudent, upright, devout, and self-controlled.   He must have a firm grasp of the word that is trustworthy in accordance with the teaching, so that he may be able both to preach with sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it. (NRSV)

Bishops, who are also presbyters (elders), should accord with these and other scriptural injunctions appertaining to the office of presbyter.   They are to be men whose personal lifestyle is consistent with these standards.   In addition, they must hold firmly to the trustworthy word.   Our formularies require that they affirm their allegiance to the supreme authority of Holy Scripture and to the doctrines of the Church.   We believe that bishops, and all other presbyters, should be required to affirm ex-animo the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion.   They are to preach sound doctrine and they are to refute error.   The Ordinal reflects this Biblical model.

Oversight, in the polity of the Church of England, includes the ability to act on behalf of the body of presbyters they represent, to sponsor suitable candidates for training, to ordain, to licence for ministry, to discipline, and to fulfil a representative role within the wider church and nation.

Given these biblical convictions and concerns we believe that if adequate provision is to be made it will be necessary to provide a distinct and separate dioceses within the Church of England.   In all probability there would be some overlap with the existing dioceses.   We believe that such provision would prove workable and in support of such a view we draw attention to the ancient practice of ‘peculiars', the overlapping boundaries of Anglican Churches within Europe, the non-territorial models commended in Mission Shaped Church , and the network models being developed in other parts of the Anglican Communion.   Moreover, we recognize that there is nothing sacrosanct about our present diocesan structures.   They are our servant and not our master.

Arrangements will also be required in relation to property, church schools, and the like.

A question may be asked about the sufficiency of such dioceses meeting the requirement for adequate provision.   We believe that there are strong reasons to assert that, though they will be necessary if the consecration of women as bishops is introduced, further provision would also be necessary.

First, in the situation where a woman was appointed to the See of York, or more particularly to the See of Canterbury, such an appointee would, in our present legal framework, have some authority over other bishops.   This may well prevent some from being willing to become a bishop of the new network of dioceses for which we call.

Secondly, there is a question of how legislation would apply to the new dioceses.   Of necessity some safeguards would have to be put in place and, in this respect, this will require some form of structural provision.

Therefore, we believe that the best way to arrive at a workable polity is to create a separate province in which the requirements in relation to doctrine set out above apply.   We think that anything short of this is likely to create unworkable compromises.


Remaining the Church of England

We wish to reiterate that such a new province should be part of the established Church of England. We do not desire to become a continuing Church nor do we seek to create another ecclesial federation.

In order to ensure that a new province remains part of the Church of England two things will be necessary.   First, it must be protected from doctrinal and structural interference by other provinces.   Secondly, it must itself remain firmly part of the established Church under the Protestant Settlement.

We set out below what we believe are necessary steps to ensure this.

The Worship and Doctrine Measure 1974 represents the historic settlement of the Church of England.   Any new province should have no powers above and beyond the provisions of this measure.   Specifically, they should not be able to change the doctrine of the church nor authorise any liturgy incompatible with that doctrine.

Any new province would need to be represented on the General Synod and any legislation relating to the province would need the approval of the same Synod.

However, to safeguard against interference from other provinces, the new province should have its own provincial synod with the ability to decide whether to adopt or decline certain legislation enacted by the General Synod.   This would be similar to the way in which Measures apply to the Channel Islands and the Diocese of Sodor and Man, and comparable to the way legislation is introduced in other provinces in the Communion.

Likewise, we seek a similar arrangement for the appointment of Bishops.   There would probably be a case to request that the composition of the Crown Nominations Committee be varied depending upon the province for which an appointment is to be made. Furthermore, the issue of the chairmanship of the panel would need to be considered whenever the appointment of an Archbishop of the Province was made.   Other than this, the present mechanism need not be changed.

We envisage and request that the diocesan bishops of a new province be made full members of the House of Bishops and be eligible to sit in the House of Lords.


David Phillips (Revd)

On behalf of Church Society Council




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