Interregnum news: 20 November 2022

The following Interregnum newsletter was printed and handed out at both churches in the Parish on 20 November:

The PCC of the Parish of Stony Stratford with Calverton has received a 40 page report of the responses to the questionnaire which was issued following the parish meeting on 8 October 2022, and has discussed the report at a meeting on 15 November 2022. On the 29 November 2022 is the PCC meeting in which there will be a PCC vote on the Resolution under the House of Bishops Declaration relating to the ordination of women priests and the consecration of women bishops. The PCC have agreed that a summary of the report findings be published to the parish ahead of the PCC vote on the 29 November, this summary is published below.

Summary of the analysis

60 people attended the meeting on 8 October 2022. At the meeting, and subsequently, 100 questionnaires were distributed with 89 completed and returned, which is a very high response rate.
In the analysis, the symbol ‘n’ represents the total number of individuals in the population (n=89 total respondents for the questionnaire) or in the sample for a given question subset.

Question 1 (Please tell us what you like about worship in our Parish churches) showed that people mostly like the elements of worship which were listed, especially the musical contributions to worship, with sung hymns and psalms with organ, plus choral anthems proving very popular. Anglo-Catholic liturgy, ceremonial and witness processions are generally well liked, while sharing the peace and incense were liked by some but not others. There were some calls to move sharing the peace to a different place in the liturgy. See separate pie charts in the folders in each church.

Question 2 (Please tell us what you have liked about worship at other churches you have visited or belonged to which you think would be good to try in our parish worship) resulted in plenty of suggestions being offered about worship practices elsewhere which might be tried in the parish, with some people taking the opportunity to comment further on their experience of the style of worship in the parish.

Question 3 (Before attending the meetings and reading the summary documents provided, how aware were you of the following points?) asked about range of awareness regarding points made in six statements.

  1. There are women priests who are Anglo-Catholic and Anglo-Catholic male priests who support the ordination of women
  2. The Society under the patronage of St Wilfred and St Hilda parishes only allow male priests to preside at Eucharistic Mass in Society churches
  3. Non Society churches can invite any priest, male or female, to preside at Eucharistic Mass, at the invitation of the incumbent
  4. The theological arguments for or against the ordination of women in the Church of England
  5. The church unity (with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches) arguments for or against the ordination of women in the Church of England
  6. The inclusion arguments for or against the ordination of women in the Church of England

Those people against the ordination of women and people in favour of the ordination of women generally had a higher awareness of the six points listed than those who had no particular view on the ordination of women.

Awareness of these points is not the same as understanding the issues involved. There were no questions specifically to measure understanding, though comments made throughout the questionnaire sometimes demonstrated what those points meant to some individuals.

Questions 4, 5a and 5b aimed to try and get a picture of people’s views on the ordination of women before and after the meeting (and information provided in the Interregnum news sheets and folders).

  • Before you attended the meeting and/or read the summary documents, what was your view on the ordination of women?
  • Now you have heard and read the perspectives of The Society plus those who support the ordination of women, what is your view on the ordination of women?
  • Now you have heard and read the perspectives of The Society plus those who support the ordination of women, what is your view on who can preside at the Eucharist in this parish?

The responses indicated a slight shift after the meeting towards being in favour of the ordination of women, mainly from those who previously had no particular view, or had not indicated their previous view. 10 people who are in favour of the ordination of women or have no particular view chose a preference for a male priest for this parish in Question 5b. This may indicate their acknowledgement of a need for a gradual shift to accommodate those in the parish who would not accept a female priest as Rector, if the resolution is rescinded. Some people chose to annotate their responses with comments, though no comments box had been provided for these 3 linked questions.

Question 4 (n=86)

I had no particular view on the ordination of women I was against the ordination of women I was in favour of the ordination of women
22 16 48
26% 19% 56%

Question 5a (n=83)

I have no particular view on the ordination of women I am against the ordination of women I am in favour of the ordination of women
17 14 52
20% 17% 63%

Question 5b (n=86)

I prefer a male priest to celebrate mass in this parish. I do not mind if the priest presiding at mass in this parish is male or female.
26 60
30% 70%

Question 6 (Please explain what you would you like the PCC to think about regarding this parish and its future as the PCC makes its decision about the Resolution) gathered plenty of comments with more than two thirds of those who responded to the questionnaire explaining what they would like the PCC to consider as it makes a decision about the Resolution. There was a strong call via many comments for making both churches more accessible, welcoming and inclusive for everyone, especially to attract families with young children and teenagers, as there was recognition from many that the demographics of the regular congregations include few young people.

Questions 7 and 8 were designed to discover what people might do once the PCC votes on the Resolution.

  • Please indicate what you might do if the PCC votes to retain the Resolution regarding the ordination of women (keep to male priests only)
  • Please indicate what you might do if the PCC votes to rescind the Resolution about the ordination of women (allow both male and female priests to preside)

Multiple choices of the 5 options for each were allowed. Some people indicated they would support and/or respect the PCC decision regardless of which decision was made and what their personal views are on the ordination of women. A few indicated they might consider worshipping elsewhere if they did not agree with the decision made (15 if retained, 14 if rescinded). Not all of the 14 against the ordination of women indicated they would consider worshipping elsewhere if the resolution is rescinded – one specifically stated they would continue worshipping in the parish but not necessarily receive communion. In the report, analysis of the data was compared for the retain (Question 7) and rescind (Question 8) options. Although a comments box was not provided, a few people annotated their responses with comments.

Question 9 (Please comment if you have anything else you wish to share with the PCC about this topic) resulted in a variety of thoughtful comments being made. Several people thanked the PCC for providing the opportunity for them to share their views via the meeting and questionnaire.

Question 10 (Please indicate where you usually worship in the parish) was the only demographic question.
As expected, due to the size of each regular congregation, there were far more responses from those who worship at SMSG than at All Saints. The choices were:

·         I usually worship at All Saints Church

·         I usually worship at St Mary & St Giles Church

·         I worship at both All Saints Church and St Mary & St Giles Church

·         I worship at one/both of the Parish churches but also worship in another parish

·         Other, please specify

Because some people ticked more than one box (if they worship at both churches, or also worship elsewhere), it is difficult to get a precise percentage of those with no particular view, against or for the ordination of women at each church when cross referenced with question 5b, however data tables in the report presented what could be deduced from the responses.

Conclusion of the report findings: The data and comments in the report indicates that many more parishioners in both congregations are in favour of the ordination of women and rescinding the resolution, than are against doing so.

PCC vote

The discussion at the 15 November meeting indicated the PCC vote outcome might not be the same as the findings of the report indicates about the wishes of the congregations. A simple majority vote of those present at the meeting on 29 November is required for the decision either way. Please pray for the PCC.
The 15 PCC members are:
Jill Barby, Graham Brown, Susi Crompton, Anne de Broise, Peter Eales, Richard Hearne, John Hickman, Deborah Kidd, Richard Martin, Anna Page, Rhian Parsons, Michael Parsons, Robert Scarff, Gwen Yates, Fr Tunji Adebiyi.

Anna C Page, Researcher and PCC member, 17 November 2022

Public extracts of the report for the PCC of responses to the Parish Questionnaire about the resolution