Back when the Church of England agreed to ordain women to the priesthood, General Synod agreed a plan that insisted that bishops, who thought women were not made in the image of God, would be ordained to provide separate (from the diocesan bishop) oversight to those members of the clergy (and their congregations) who also believed that women were not saved by the incarnational actions of Jesus Christ. Of course, this was a foul, uncatholic provision that made the Church of England look like an anochronistic bastion of chauvinism and bigotry to the citizens of England who had long ago accepted that women were human too. But it did have a sort of logic to it.

This logic has been completed confounded by the appointment of Bishop Martin Warner to the see of Chichester. Warner is a staunch reactionary from that part of the Anglo-Catholic party in England that is dominated by old school gay priests with an almost misogynist fear and jealousy of women. He is now to take on the headship of a whole diocese in which there are both women and men in the priesthood. But he doesn't believe women can be priests and he certainly won't ordain women to the priesthood. This is like the prime minister of England not accepting that the female members of parliament have the right to vote in Parliament. How can somebody help you realise your priestly vocation if they don't believe you are a priest in the first place?

There are no flying bishops available to provide pastoral oversight to the female priests and non-misogynist church members of Chichester Diocese. Therefore, the Church of England is rejecting a whole section of its membership in Chichester from the episcopal care that is a central mark of the catholic identity of the English church. If we are still reneging on the promises we made to women back in the 1990s I fear there is little hope of women becoming "real" bishops in the Church of England anytime soon. If General Synod does vote to allow women to join the house of bishops it will be an act of straw. The continued promotion of men to positions of authority over women (whether women like it or not) without also the promotion of women to positions of authority over men (whether men like it or not) is just another embarrassing example over the entrenched patriarchalism, hypocrisy and self-interested selectiveness that has led to the Anglican church in England becoming less relevant to the English than the Flat Earth Society.



  1. Time for the CoE parishes affected by these old fearful men to talk to TEC? We could have our own ordinariate in England. Seems to be the thing to do these days.

  2. Following the same logic- what episcopal oversight will be provided for men (and women) who are unable to accept the oversight of a female bishop when and if the latter are consecrated? No amount of legislatino can compel them to change their convictions and conscience so should such people simply leave the church? If the feeling is that they should the research just put on Anglican Mainstream by Andrew Presland about the viability of the chuch without (in that instance) conservative evangelicals is noteworthy, Dan

  3. To me the campaign to allow the ordination of women to the episcopacy is of the same type as the campaign to outlaw slavery. In my opinion those who cannot accept the authority of a female bishop are wrong.

  4. Dear MadPriest- in the light of the fact that they are “wrong” is the answer to my question that all those both evangelical and anglo-catholic who cannot accept the change should (a) stay in the C of E and defy their convictions consciences or (b) leave the C of E. I see no other options unless you think that a Synodical Measure can change someone’s profoundly held convictions overnight- the same convictions that have for the last two decades been acknowledged by the Church as held with integrity by loyal Anglicans. Thoughts welcome,

  5. It’s up to the individuals concerned. I have battled with the same type of decision for over six years and I am now about as far removed from the Church of England that you can be without actually handing in your membership card. I wouldn’t wish such exile on anybody but sometimes such things become impossible to avoid unless you lack all personal integrity. I would never advocate the rejection of anybody from the church. But I believe there are some matters of justice where there can be no accommodation for those who oppose it. But do bear in mind, I am just a commentator. I have never played any part in church governance and, probably, never will.

    • Interesting, given the growing strength of conservative evangelicals as the Anglican Mainstream piece identifies and the strength of the “resolution ABC” parishes- thus the two groups most likely to be “exiled” how do you see the future viability of the C of E? Or is that (a) a “price worth paying” to advance the cause of women in the episcopate or (b) is the non-church going world suddenly going to be so thrilled by women in purple that all the numerical and financial loss will suddenly be madeup by an influx of new people. It seems to me that retaining the “two integrities” and thus some visible unity is a the preferred course all things considered.Of course I might be wrong on the issue but so might you, or both of us- so couldn’t some provision be made for all of us?

  6. Personally I don’t think so as the justice of giving women full equality throughout all of the church outweighs the justice of giving alternative provision to those who oppose such a move, a provision that would make it impossible for women to be equal in all of the church.

    I’m an idealist and not a pragmatic. I would rather the church die than live with injustice. But, as an outsider, with no input into the workings of the church, I can hold to such selfish idealism without affecting anybody who might be harmed by it.

  7. Clear provision is proposed for those who don’t believe a woman can be a bishop (and it will be legally enforceable) but the continuing appointment of bishops who do not recognise the ministry of their own women priests, without any suggestion of alternative oversight raises some interesting questions, especially for the women in the diocese. Dan, Conservative Evangelicals seem to have got themselves in a bit of a muddle over this as unlike the traditional Catholics they do not have consensus on what if any role women can play in church leadership. They certainly do not have the same focussed objection to women in the episcopate and it is doubtful if for many this will be a “leaving” matter in itself.

    • Dear Jackdaw, I guess if one can call a “draft proposed Code of Practice”, which is implemented at the discretion of the diocesan bishop and which does not guarantee alternative oversight if there is no one willing to offer it and is only enforceable by judicial review in a secular court “clear” then you may be right. It seems to me that whether or not clergy will formally “leave” specifically over this issue is probably less important than the fact that it is one of the issues forming part of the cumulative effect which is causing Conservative Evangelicals to look to Gafcon, FCA etc, establish their own parish fund in Southwark etc- it seems to me that there is an pattern being established of people “leaving” while “staying” and taking their congregations and funds with them. If they don’t have a bishop they recognise that trend of parting ways with the diocese will inevitably be exacerbated.
      I will just add that I find Madpriest’s last post extraordinary- how relevant is a non-existent church and how is a non-existent church a force for justice? Do you really mean that if it comes to it the church should die for the sake of who can be a bishop??

    • Yes. Of course, I do. There are all sorts of things the church could do to get more people in but which would be unethical and/or heretical. We don’t do them because we follow the teachings of Christ and ultimately trust in God.

  8. Hi Dan,
    Some facts: the Code of Practice is currently in draft form simply because it cannot be published officially until the Measure has received the royal assent. It will not be “at the discretion of the diocesan bishop” and will be enforceable under the Clergy Discipline Measure.
    Those Conservative Evangelicals thinking of “leaving while staying” – presumably to have all the benefits of belonging to the C of E while avoiding commitment and responsibility to others – should pause for thought at the mess that AMIA has got itself into in its quest for alternative oversight. It’s a pity we now have no-one with the wisdom shown by John Stott in the sixties at the Keels Conference when similar proposals were being made.