Tuesday, November 27, 2012

ARE THERE THREE...

One wonders if there are any three English bishops out there with the guts to get together and do what the Bishop and the Bishop Coadjutor of Aberdeen and the Bishop of Ross and Caithness did for the Episcopal Church in consecrating Samuel Seabury (our first bishop) on November 14, 1784: consecrate a woman as a bishop in England.

Probably not.

It’s hard for a leopard to change its spots. (Nigel Taber-Hamilton)
As the English already know, we are a rebellious lot here in the US, but the Church of England is no less so, having broken the yoke to the Church of Rome some hundreds of years ago.

Several of us discussed this approach to having women bishops in England on Facebook, and the conclusion for most was that it couldn't be done for various reasons. I say, "Why not?" Kudos, Nigel for your what-if.  Other suggestions may be found in the comments at Daily Episcopalian.   

The Rev. Nigel Taber-Hamilton is rector of St. Augustine’s in-the-Woods Episcopal Church on Whidbey Island, WA.   Nigel came to the US from England in 1979.

The painting by Peter J Morgan depicts the consecration of Bishop Samuel Seabury by three bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

UPDATE: You may want to read Lay Anglicana's post titled "Who’s Queen? – & Is She Not Also A Bishop?: John Adams".

11 comments:

  1. Grandmere, this is spot on. Over here in England I’ve been asking everyone who is patient enough to listen why we need legislation at all to consecrate women bishops. We know the early church had them, and we’ve never legislated to forbid them. We haven’t had them since Henry VIII, but so what? There was a first bishop with a pacemaker. There was a first bishop with an artificial hip. Don’t ask me who because nobody saw fit to make a fuss about it.
    Okay, there was a stage when people were trying to be nice to each other and take seriously that their opponents had seriously held views. At that stage maybe it made sense to work towards an acceptable compromise and push it through the voting procedure. But that’s all over. We’ve long since stopped listening to each other’s theological arguments. There were only ever a few, and not very impressive. The Synod vote was the result of campaigning to get elected so as to get one’s vote on this one issue.

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    1. Thank you, Jonathan. The time to be nice is long past. For heaven's sake, just do it!

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  2. The other issue is that it's actually against the law in theory to carry out an Ordination or Consecration. Because the Church of England is the Established Church, its duties are enshrined in it's Canons and the Book of Common Prayer, which are approved by parliament.

    So any consecration would be invalid and not recognised by the church.

    It's a great shame, because it's a great idea to break the stalemate.

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    1. UKViewer, I am aware that the consecration of one or more women bishops may involve both ecclesiastical and civil disobedience. At first, the Episcopal Church did not recognize the irregular ordinations of the first 11 women as priests, but the ordinations were later regularized by the church. Read Mark Harris, who was there at the ceremony.

      Of course the question might better be connected with the bishops who had the guts to come together and with some amazingly gutsy women ordain 11 women as priests in Philadelphia. ( I was honored as a priest to take part in the laying on of hands in that service.)
      ...

      If there are three bishops up for this, and a candidate or two ready to be put forward by a diocese willing to receive them, the matter of what constitutes justice in a system that needs to clean up its act regarding "appointment" of bishops, would be joined. If dioceses in England actually called their bishops by election or some other process in which they had rights to elect from candidates they choose, the issue would already be clear - that there are dioceses ready to accept, receiver, confirm, invite, the ministry of a particular woman as bishop, or candidates without reference to gender. Since there is no such process (as far as I know) maybe the challenge to a bad system by an "irregular" ordination would tilt the matter towards the arc of justice.

      That would be a fine day.

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  3. I love the idea of Parliament forcing the CofE to live the integrity of the Gospel.

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    1. Elizabeth, Parliament will not do so, nor have I great hope that three bishops will come forward to ordain a woman or two, more's the pity.

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  4. I hate the idea of Parliament forcing the C of
    E to do anything. If it forces the Church to do something we like today, what's to stop a new parliament under the control of a different party from forcing the Church to do something we abhor tomorrow? Besides, is living the integrity of the Gospel something that can be "forced"?

    As for the 3 gut-filled bishops, they are probably out there, but the first step is choosing the candidate for consecration. The C of E's procedures for choosing bishops is very different from TEC's, but in both churches, there are a whole bunch of people involved in choosing the bishop and/or in consenting to that choice. Courageous as these 3 bishops may be, leaving the choice to them is more Romish than Anglican.

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    1. Paul, I think the initiative should come from the church, not from Parliament. The three bishops would consecrate, but they alone would not necessarily choose the candidate or candidates. And, of course, rules would be broken and new rules made up. The act would be a form of non-violent resistance to the stalemate blocking women bishops. Non-violent resistance to the powers-that-be is never easy and would require enormous courage on the part of the participants.

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  5. The Scottish Episcopal Church has not been Scotland's established church since it stood by James VII/II after the 1688 Glorious Revolution. In 1784, tt was still a semi-persecuted, quasi-Jacobite body. Therefore the Scottish consecrating bishops risked no legal sanctions for their action, whereas the English bishops, who had directed Seabury to the Scottish church for consecration, were at that date forbidden by law to consecrate any bishop-elect who refused the Oath of Supremacy (to George III). In 1787, when English law had been amended to take into account such circumstances, the second consecration of US bishops was performed by the archbishops of Canterbury and York, and by the bishop of Bath & Wells.

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    1. Yes, the consecration would be an act of civil disobedience for English bishops. Someone in the comments at Daily Episcopalian suggested the women could be ordained in another country and then be appointed to a see in England, which would also not be simple.

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  6. Irregular consecration of female bishops would have potentially disastrous consequences in setting a precedent for action by the English church's conservative Evangelicals. They have already skated free on the irregular ordination of three deacons by an African bishop (sound familiar?) for an Evangelical parish in the diocese of Southwark, when Rowan Williams overturned Bishop Butler's suspension of the minster of the offending parish. The conservative Evangelicals are potentially a far more dangerously disruptive threat to the Church of England's unity than are the Anglo Catholics.

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