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 Issues | Ministry | Woman Bishops

3. Issues arising from the nature of episcopacy.

Because Bishops have wider areas of ministry the consecration of women Bishops raises particular practical issues which have deep theological consequences.

Impinging on conscience

The Church of England accepts that no-one can be required to accept as an article of faith or religion anything that is not in Holy Scripture or canot be proved from it  (Article 6).  It is our contention that Scripture requires and expects that presbyters in the Church be men. 

When the Church of England voted to ordain women as presbyters legislation was also introduced to protect the conscience of those opposed to it.  This position impact clergy and laity differently.

A Church fellowship can refuse to accept the ministry of women presbyters by passing resolutions laid down in legislation.  This requires a vote of the Parochial Church Council.  However, where a lay person is opposed but their Church goes ahead and appoints a women presbyter they have a difficult decision.  Some will continue in fellowship but also in opposition.  Others  leave and sadly some, particulary in rural areas, have found themselves unable to find a Church where they feel the ministry accords with Scripture.  Thus for some the existing legislation does impinge upon  their conscience in requiring them to accept something they believe to be wrong.

For clergy, generally speaking, they are not required at present to accept the oversight of women presbyters.  There are women Rural Deans and Archdeacons but these are seen as  administrative roles by many (Archdeacons were in origin Deacons not Priests).

The major difference that the Consecration of Women as Bishops will introduce is that clergy and all congregations with a Woman Bishop will be forced to accept the oversight, unless some provision is made otherwise.  This is seen to be particulary serious because  some clergy will feel forced to leave the Church unless provision is made and this affects their livelihood.

Practical issues  will arise in many areas, including appointments and ordinations where a Bishop has a particular role of oversight.

We recognise that many of those in favour of women being appointed as presbyters argue their case from Scripture and are themselves convinced that Scripture requires them to accept Women presbyters as a matter of justice or whatever.  However, we are equally convinced that they are in fact misusing Scrpture and in doing so are aiming to introduce legislation which will force others to accept their views.

It is understandable, particulary for those women who feel called to ministry, that people  will not see these obections as sufficient grounds not to proceed. However, it remains the case that those who cannot accept women Presbyters are holding to the position which has been held almost universally by the Christian Church for 1900 years and more and which is still the view of the majoirty of those who claim to be Christian today.

Thus, it is not simply that their action will exclude us, they will be driving from the Church those who uphold what the Church has always held.


Focus of Disunity

If the Church of England creates Women Bishops it is likely that some will be prepared to live with it, despite disagreeing.  It is hard to see how such a view can survive for long without some provision since new clergy in particular will be required to accept the innovation if they wish to be ordained.

Others, both laity and clergy will feel compelled to leave the Church of England.

After the Church of England ordained women as Presbyters over 500 clergy left the Church (based on those who took the financial provision made for them) and more than 20 members  of the General Synod.

In addition, the rate of decline in attendance roughly doubled so that in the decade after the decision attendance fell by 20,000 per year compared to around 10,000 per year in the previous decade.  Furthermore, the number of men going into full-time ordained ministry has declined dramatically.

If no provision is made it is likely that others will wish to continue but will find ways either within the law or outside of it to be obedient to Scripture.

Therefore, Women Bishops will become  the focus of disunity.


Undermining the Authority fo Scripture

Like it or not the Bible does expect men to be Presybters.  Furthermore, the Apostle Paul does say that he did not permit women to teach or have authority over men.

Despite this many argue from Scripture that Women should be presbyters but all these arguments are either a slippery slope or they are extremely convoluted.

The effect of this is in practice to undermine the authority of Scripture.

The sad fact is that what is actually happening is that people are not prepared to submit to the Word of God and live by it, but rather they are forcing Scripture to yield to the prevailing views of the culture in which we live.  This is nothing new, but it is destructive to the Christian faith.


See also: 'Women Bishops' - Cross†Way article (2012) by George Curry examining the consequences for those opposed to women bishops.

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4. The Rochester Commission

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Related Links
Consecration of Women Bishops
BulletNature and role of Bishops
BulletShould women be bishops?
BulletIssues to do with women bishops
BulletRochester Commission
BulletSynodical Process
BulletProvision for opponents

BulletSubmission 2009 (CS Council)
BulletSubmission 2009 (CS Trust)
BulletJoint Submission 2007
BulletJoint evangelical submission
BulletOpen letter to Bishops
BulletRochester Submission
BulletSubmission to Guilford Group
BulletPetition to Guildford Group
BulletSynod Briefing July 2006


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