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 Issues | Ministry | Women and ordained ministry

Part 5 : Responding in the Parish

Resolutions A, B & C. The Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure provision for opponents and the Episcopal Ministry act of Synod establishing ‘Flying Bishops’.

In November 1992 the General Synod of the Church of England voted to allow women to be ordained as priests. In 1993 a Measure was introduced in order to protect congregations who believed this to have been a mistake, or who, for whatever reason, felt that women should not minister as priests in their local church. This was a recognition not only of differing opinions but that such a dramatic change, which was unknown in the previous two millennia of Church history, needed to be tested and received by the Church.

The legislation which permitted women to be ordained as priests also made provision for those parishes which could not accept this.  Two resolutions were provided which could allow this to be expressed and alongside this provision in law that  these should be honoured.

The third  resolution was not in the legislation but in what is confusingly called an Act of Synod.  This concerned the provision of episcopal ministry.

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."

This sounds too catholic in tone for many Evangelicals. It covers those actions which are, at present, the preserve of the priest. This implies a view of ministry that few Evangelicals can accept.
However, not passing this Resolution allows various things to happen:
(a) A woman could be appointed as an assistant minister and made Priest.
(b) A visiting woman from another parish could preside at Communion.
(c) During an interregnum, or if the incumbent were ill, the pastoral care of the parish could be passed to a woman priest from another parish.
Whether you like the wording or not, you must think through the implications of this for the life of the congregation as a whole.

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"
This is more straightforward, it concerns specifically the appointment of a Vicar or Rector as incumbent of a parish, or an equivalent appointment. Some people would argue that the patronage system and parish representatives can safeguard a parish if it is felt a woman should not be appointed. Many parishes say they are not against women as Vicars, they just don't think it right for them.
There are two things to bear in mind.
• In many places considerable pressure is brought to bear on parishes, particularly through threats of a long interregnum, this has led to unsuitable people being appointed. In many Dioceses the Bishops are suspending almost all vacant benefices, this gives them considerable power over the appointment, but they cannot go against Resolution B.
• If a parish does not pass Resolution B and then turns down a woman candidate simply because she is a woman the PCC could be prosecuted under sex discrimination legislation.

The PCC must decide whether it would wish a woman to be appointed as Rector/Vicar. Such a person would have the pastoral and spiritual charge of the congregation, including; the main preaching ministry, presiding at the Communion, and leading the life of the church.

Resolution C
This Parochial Church Council resolves to petition the Diocesan Bishop, requesting that Episcopal duties in the parish should be carried out in accordance with the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993.

Few evangelical churches have considered Resolution C. Passing this resolution does not take the church out of the Diocese. Instead it indicates that the church looks to those who retain a biblical and historical view of ministry to exercise the pastoral oversight which is charged to a Bishop. It will ensure safeguards against the Bishops imposing people of different views on the parish. Evangelicals were upset, but not surprised, when the Church of England first held back on creating the Third 'Flying Bishop' and then finally appointed a third 'catholic'.

There are special rules governing this resolution and it is usually passed at a separate meeting.


The changing faith of the Church of England.

In the past many evangelical parishes have taken a defiant stand against certain trends because of their utter conviction that the Bible is fully and completely the word of God and that through His word God governs His Church. This was the faith of the English reformers who transformed the Church of England, it was the faith of the Puritans and the evangelical revivalists through whose ministry God transformed the whole nation.
Today the Church of England is dominated by a liberal mind set. Many liberals deny the full divinity of Christ, the necessity of his saving death and the authority of the bible. We do not have to look far to see where this will lead. In America, Canada and New Zealand it is possible to see the effects of the ordination of women 15 to 20 years down the line. In America particularly it is a nightmare scenario. Practising homosexuals (i.e. those with live-in-lovers) are ordained and same sex unions are encouraged. At the same time those who in conscience believe that the ordination of women is contrary to scripture and tradition are precluded from ordination or hounded out.

Bishops, such as John Spong in Newark, has been able to deny almost every article of the Nicene Creed, whilst at the same time shutting churches and removing those who opposed him.  Not disimilar things have happend in parts of the Scandinavian Lutheran churches.

The establishment of the Church of England is a safeguard against American excess, but for how long? Bishops John Robinson and David Jenkins were able to teach error and heresy unchecked. In 1993 Parliament effectively gave the General Synod power to change doctrine without restraint. The safeguards for those who hold the historic position of the Church in relation to women's ministry are not part of the law of the Church and therefore they can be dropped easily.

To stand firm for the historic and biblical faith of the Church of England will mean being unpopular. However, truth can never be determined by the majority nor by prevailing fashions, rather by what the God of Truth has said. The PCC must not we swayed by pressure from the Church or from the world. You must come to the clear conviction that what you do is in accordance with the word of God, that is what faithful Anglicans have always done.

For two millennia, the Church of God has consistently and uniformly taught that the bible precludes women from servant-leadership in the household of faith. In this last generation or two many protestant churches of the wesern world have embarked on a process of wholesale change from Biblical and traditional practice and teaching.  It would be hard to find any denomination which has undertaken this revisionist agenda and seen numerical growth.  In fact, as the Church has decided to put cultural conformity above the teaching of Scripture it has lost influence and turned people away.

To go against the spirit of the age is not easy and this is particularly so today fof women who wish to  uphold Biblical teaching rather than the standards of the world.  Yet if we would truly honour God and show our love for Christ, we must be obedient to His revealed will.


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Part 6 : Church Society’s legal action


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Related Links
Women Priests
BulletNature of Christian Leadership
BulletRelevance of the Bible
BulletWhat the Bible teaches
BulletResponding in the Parish

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