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Friday, 28 October 2011

Diocese in Europe Bishop's Council Votes in Favour of Women Bishops Legislation

Today our Bishop's Council acted upon the Article 8 reference from General Synod, on the matter of women bishops and voted in favour of the motion: "this Council approves the proposal embodied in the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure and in draft Amending Canon No. 30".  

This is the text of what I said at the Bishop's Council Meeting:
"The presentation of the Revd Anders Bergquist clearly set before us that what we must decide upon is not whether or not women can be or should be bishops of the Church of England. That moment has passed. In deciding that in principle this is a right development, the Church of England still recognises that this is a decision that, like all major developments in the Church of God, must be subject to and tested within a process of reception, a process which naturally must include the whole of the Church.
The Church has made a decision about what it believes to be right about women bishops. But what is before us is the question of whether we approve of the proposals in the measure as the way to carry forward the decision of the Church, while maintaining the highest degree of unity.
In June at the Diocesan Synod debate I already stated my position. I repeated it here, in summary. I want a Church which teaches that women can be bishops, priests and deacons. At the same time I want a Church which, out of a profound commitment to receiving the truth of the Gospel and a profound commitment to loving mutual respect among her members, will not create difficulties for those who at this stage of the reception of this development find they cannot accept it. If this is a true development, we must and can find a way to move ahead so that it is a sign of the truth of the Gospel and of hope for the ecumenical movement and for the unity of our Church.
But the point I want to make at this stage is about confidence in who we are, regardless of the outcome of our decision. I would be cautious about acting in any a way that creates the illusion that the Diocese in Europe is an enclave within the Church. I say this because I am a Catholic and therefore not someone very well disposed to party or sectarian positions. We have watched how the grand proposals in Anglicanorum Coetibus, the Ordinariate, seem to be creating a sort of “safe harbour” within the Roman Catholic Church, which, begins to look more like a cul-de-sac, rather than a place of hope and confidence and trust in God’s powerful Spirit which guides, moves, and sustains the Church of God into the future.
One of the most beautiful and moving aspects about this diocese which I serve and which you represent is that we are able to live very well with diversity and even, to a degree, untidiness. We are experts in serving our people and our Lord in the midst of this continent where divisions among churches evolved into schism, reformations, counter-reformations and wars. In this context, at the heart of our witness as a diocese, is a constant striving for unity, with those with whom we are in communion, with those with whom we are not yet in communion and within our own family of the Church of England. We already are experts in living with huge anomalies that other parts of the Anglican Communion, and even other parts of the Church of England could only imagine and in this context we flourish and grow. We do not shy away from challenges, for we have confidence in who we are and what we stand for.
For instance, in this diocese we already live side by side with another Anglican jurisdiction which has a woman bishop as its ordinary. I speak of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe. Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, is, in fact, the bishop of that jurisdiction, with Bishop Pierre, essentially her suffragan. This has not impeded relationships, neither do Bishop Geoffrey nor I consider that Bishop Pierre, as her delegate, is anything other than a bishop. This is a diocese where I have on occasion found myself at consecrations of bishops of Churches in Communion where other bishops who are present to lay on hands are women. This is a diocese where our Diocesan Bishop is an honorary assistant bishop in a jurisdiction which already accepts the blessings of same sex partnerships. I speak of the Christ [Old] Catholic Church in Switzerland. This is a diocese where we do not operate as if we were some enclave, safe from the storms of the Church around us. We live in the real world, we live in the real Church, and we live with and flourish in the context of huge ambiguity and change, with a confidence in who we are, as a true diocese of the Catholic Church of Christ, with a profound commitment to unity imbedded in our DNA. This is a gift which our Gracious God has granted us, and it is precious, and we should not ever sell ourselves short on what this will enable us to do.
Whatever the decision of this Council today, I pray that it will help us to continue to be a beacon of hope and unity, that it will strengthen our confidence in who we are: not a ghetto, not an enclave shielded and protected from the real struggles of the Church, but a diocese which lives confidently the Catholic faith as this Church has inherited it, trusting always in God’s Holy Spirit to strengthen and confirm us in that faith".  

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