The Together4ward team were excited last Saturday to see Church Society elect a new Council. At the new council’s first meeting on Tuesday, appreciation was expressed by all for the Church of England, and our firm commitment to her.
We are in the process of planning a more detailed contribution to the discussion around GS1886, the women bishops working group’s document outlining the process to make women bishops while providing proper provision for conscience. We hope that contribution, along with some detailed suggestions for Dioceses to consider, can be made available early July.
Until then, we would like to offer the following comment:
As evangelical ministers, we love the people in our parishes, our bishops, and the wider church. At our ordinations, we made promises to serve them by framing our lives around Christ and the scriptures. In return our congregations, bishops, and the wider church have placed their trust in us.
Like our marriages, these promises were sincere and heartfelt, and so serious that by making them we took on a legal commitment. All praise be to our God, who in his covenant with us in Christ, made promises to us which also entail a legal commitment. We will not and cannot simply walk away from those people to whom we have made such promises. We love them, and that love we have made concrete in promise, trust and law.
We promise to be faithful to the CofE. But will the CofE be faithful to its promises to us?
We value the promises that were made in 1993 that there will always be a place in the church for us, and that provision will be made for our consciences. We value the difficult and painful decision made by Synod in November to decide to provide proper and sufficient provision for our consciences. We value the working group’s commitment to deliver on that provision, even though the details are yet to be made clear. We want to be able to value still more highly the commitments made in the course of the proposals for women bishops and are sure that the working group recognises that this needs to be reflected in the detailed proposals.
We welcome the working group drawing attention to the limits put on what can be called “Anglican” by the Bible and the formularies, which are the “family silver” that we all share.
We are faithful marriage partners in regards the Bible. Our understanding of the biblical view of gender is shared with church Fathers such as Augustine and Chrysostom, catholic theologians such as Bede and Aquinas, and Anglican divines such as Hooker and Ryle. We are faithful marriage partners in regards the formularies. Our understanding of gender roles is shared by Thomas Cranmer in the Book of Common Prayer marriage and ordination services, and by John Jewel in the Homily on Marriage which is said by Article 35 to contain “a godly and wholesome Doctrine.”
Therefore we welcome the working group distancing themselves from those who have picked up this family silver in anger and hurled it at us with the label “heretics.” We ask these brothers and sisters to please now put their anger behind them. Let us begin to foster trust together, and be faithful to our mutual promises, by moving forward on making women bishops while including proper provision for conscience.
For any marriage to be truly a blessing, we must diligently work to ensure our actions match our promises. We promise to be faithful to the CofE. Please will the CofE be faithful to its promises to us?
(This statement was updated on 6th, 7th, and 8th June)