Sunday, 9 May 2010


The reports emerging from the Revision Committee to enable women to become Bishops is that the only provision to be made for those of us who cannot accept that women can be priests and bishops is what is called a “Code of Practice” When the legislation for the ordination of women to the priesthood was passed Anglo-catholic’s who were unable to accept this innovation were told that they were assured of a honoured place within the family of the Church of England. This was ratified by the Act of Synod which gave parishes the right to pass resolutions restricting the appointment of a women as incumbent or in celebrating Mass; it also allowed parishes to pass resolution “c” which gave such parish alternative Episcopal care

Many Diocesan Bishops by devious means or blackmail during interregnums sought to get round the provisions of the Act. They would persuade parishes to rescind the resolutions as, they said, that would be the only way that a new priest would be appointed. Once they had succumbed it wasn’t long before a woman was appointed. Strong Catholic parishes have disappeared over night

A parish well known to me had a divorced priest appointed who gave assurances to the PCC that he had no intention of remarrying and that no woman would be permitted to officiate. Despite my pleas to one of the Churchwardens to persuade the parish to pass the resolutions they were quite happy to accept the word of their Diocesan Bishop. A bad mistake! Shortly after his induction, the new Vicar announced that he was marrying (Yes, you’ve guessed) a divorced woman priest. It wasn’t long before she was regularly celebrating Mass despite both the Bishop’s and Vicar’s previous assurances. When that man moved on his replacement was a woman. Even my home parish which has a catholic history going back to the 19th century now has a woman incumbent and many of the faithful members of that congregation have had to move to other parishes.

Many of us believed the promises we were given; after all, we thought, the Bishops were godly men who would not stoop to such levels. Many of us have continued to give loyal support to a church which seemed to be doing everything in its power to deny its Catholic heritage. But the net result of this loyalty is the unwillingness of the powerful liberal wing to give Catholics a structure which would enable us to continue within the Church of England.

A Code of Practice is not worth the paper it is printed on; it will be abused, ignored or not be implemented. The present Episcopal Visitors (the Bishops of Richborough, Ebbsfleet and Beverly) will have no position in this new arrangement as far as I can see.

As Bishop Edwin, retired Bishop of Richborough writes on his blog about the Code of Practice: - There will, alas, be some priests and parishes who are taken in by this. 'Oh, we shall still be able to have a male priest here, so that's all right!..' No, it is not. First, note that all bishops must participate in the consecration of women bishops. No conscience clause for them. And when a man is consecrated there will doubtless be women bishops joining in the consecration even before we have our first women Archbishop. And do you suppose any priest opposed to women's ordination could be instituted? And how could he swear allegiance to the Bishop of X and her successors...?

"But we will still have the PEVs to protect us!" Oh no you won't. The Archbishops will not have to retain the sees of Ebbsfleet, Richborough or Beverley for those opposed; and so any safeguard there is removed. How could a new PEV accept office in the first place, though? He would have to accept that he was part of a college of bishops which included women whom be believes are not bishops; but he would not be allowed to say that, and women bishops would participate in his consecration. Since at least three of those functioning as Episcopal Visitors are committed to joining the Ordinariate, there would just be the PEV of the Northern Province hanging on until forced to retire by reason of age just four years from now. This is not the provision we asked for, "for our children and grandchildren".

If that wasn’t enough to persuade you that a Code of Practice will not do, two of the leading women for consecration have said that when they are bishops they will do everything in their power to ensure that the Code will be a “dead letter”.

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