Interregnum news: 25 September 2022 thumbnail

Interregnum news: 25 September 2022

The following Interregnum newsletter was printed and handed out at both churches in the Parish on 25 September:

In last week’s Interregnum news we explained about the Parish open meeting the PCC has arranged at 5:00pm on 8 October 2022 in St Mary & St Giles church when you can learn more about the respective perspectives of Forward in Faith and The Society as well as
Anglo-Catholic priests who are in favour of the ordination of women. If you need a lift to the meeting, please speak to any PCC member. You can ask questions, hear comments from others and reflect on your perspective before telling the PCC your views via a questionnaire which will be handed out at the end of the meeting for return by 16 October 2022. If you are unable to attend the meeting, you will be able to obtain the questionnaire on 9 October in both churches or by contacting Anna Page annacpage.parish@gmail.com 07944 192921.

The next Interregnum newsletter will outline the timetable and process for the Interregnum.

The PCC has been gathering information which we plan to put on display in both churches as there are several pages of information to read. We also plan to provide all the information in a document hosted on the Parish website for you to read online or download and print.

In the meantime, you may wish to read the following which forms part of the information the PCC has compiled:

Factsheet: Women priests in the Church of England (2019)

https://religionmediacentre.org.uk/factsheets/25-years-of-women-as-priests-in-the-church-of-england/ (written in 2019)

Women have now been able to become priests in the Church of England for 25 years. This marked the culmination of decades of wrangling and activism, although arguments around the representation of women in senior positions in the church have continued in the quarter-century since.

When did women become able to be ordained as priests?

The Movement for the Ordination of Women was founded in 1979 and was the main group campaigning for women to become priests. It wound up in 1994 after it had achieved its objective. A group called Watch https://womenandthechurch.org/ was formed in 1996 to campaign for gender justice in the church.

After 19 years of debate, the Church of England’s parliament – the General Synod – took the decision in 1992 to allow women’s ordination. The measure had to be approved by a two-thirds majority in each of the synod’s three houses of bishops, clergy and laity. It passed by a margin of only two votes among lay people.

Thirty-two women were priested at a service in Bristol Cathedral on 12 March, 1994. They were ordained in alphabetical order, which means that Angela Berners-Wilson is officially the Church of England’s first woman priest.

She had previously served 15 years as a deaconess and deacon and went on to be a chaplain at Bath University. She is now a parish priest and a prebendary at Wells Cathedral.

What about women bishops?

Figures for 2017 show that 28% of clergy are women and 23% of senior leadership positions are held by women https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2018-08/Ministry Statistics 2017_final report_v2.pdf.

On 17 November 2014, the General Synod voted in favour of removing the legal obstacles preventing women from becoming bishops, ending a process that began nine years earlier.

Libby Lane became the first woman to serve as a bishop of the Church of England when she was consecrated in 2015 as suffragan Bishop of Stockport in 2015, an assistant bishop in the diocese of Chester. She is now the diocesan Bishop of Derby.

As of March 2019, there are 18 women bishops: London, Bristol, Gloucester, Newcastle, Derby, Aston, Crediton, Dorking, Hull, Jarrow, Lancaster, Loughborough, Penrith, Repton, Ripon, Sherborne, Taunton and Warrington https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_female_Anglican_bishops.

Five are diocesan bishops with seats in the House of Lords, including the Rt Rev Sarah Mullally, Bishop of London, and the third most senior bishop in the Church of England.

What was the resistance to women priests?

In 1993 the Act of Synod was passed allowing for the creation of “flying bishops” (provincial episcopal visitors) to minister to churches that did not accept the ordination of women. Today there are seven: the bishops of Richborough (based in St Albans), Ebbsfleet, Maidstone, Fulham, Beverley, Wakefield and Burnley.

363 parishes https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2017-11/Church Statistics 2009-2010.pdf (from a total of 13,000) opted to come under the care of these “flying bishops” (2010 stats). 1,000 parishes object to women priests working in their churches (2010 stats as above). 430 priests resigned https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2004/20-february/news/uk/conscience-payouts-to-priests-top-26m from the Church of England over the issue and claimed compensation.

Forward in Faith https://www.forwardinfaith.com/index.php was set up in 1992 after the vote to allow women’s ordination. It has branches in many parts of the UK and says it is committed to the catholic faith and order, and opposed to women priests and bishops. The Bishop of Wakefield chairs the group.

Reform https://www.reform.org.uk/is a conservative evangelical group set up in 1993 against the ordination of women, now also campaigning on issues such as homosexuality. It is led by the Rev Mark Burkill, from Leyton, east London.

There was also a Group for Rescinding the Act of Synod which called for the law which paid compensation to those who resigned and set up structures for opponents of women’s ordination to be withdrawn, calling it “institutionally sexist”.

What are the theological arguments in this debate?

Opponents of women’s ordination may draw on the following arguments:

  • The Bible says women should not hold authority over men (Ephesians 5:21-22 says the husband is the head of the wife, the ‘headship’ argument)
  • The 12 disciples were all men and there has been a 2,000-year line of male “apostolic succession”
  • Ordaining women as priests is an obstacle to unity with the Roman Catholics and Orthodox churches, which do not allow women priests
  • A priest represents Jesus at the altar and Jesus was a man

Those in favour of women’s ordination counter that:

  • The text from Ephesians should be read in its cultural context. Elsewhere St Paul said “in Christ there is no male or female” (Galatians 3:28)
  • Jesus had many women disciples, including Mary Magdalene
  • Unity talks continue but Roman Catholics and the Orthodox do not accept Anglican ordinations or sacraments are valid. The issue of women’s ordination is one of many obstacles to unity.
  • Jesus is representative of all humanity, male and female
Interregnum news: 18 September 2022 thumbnail

Interregnum news: 18 September 2022

The following Interregnum newsletter was printed and handed out at both churches in the Parish on 18 September:

Now The Parish of Stony Stratford with Calverton is in an interregnum period between Parish priests, the Parochial Church Council (PCC) is compiling the parish profile and the person specification for applicants. Part of this process includes considering whether this Parish wishes to retain or rescind the Resolution under the House of Bishops Declaration relating to the ordination of women priests and the consecration of women bishops. This includes deciding whether to remain members of The Society and Forward in Faith, as The Parish of Stony Stratford with Calverton is currently a Forward in Faith and The Society parish.

In 1992 Forward in Faith was formed in response to the General Synod of the Church of England resolving to ordain women into the priesthood. In 2010 The Society under the patronage of
St Wilfred and St Hilda was formed in preparation for the anticipated consecration of women bishops (The Society is supported by Forward in Faith).

The decision to pass the Resolutions A & B under the Ordination of Priests (Women) Measure was made by Fr Cavell Cavell-Northam and the PCC only in the early 1990s, and the Parish established a relationship with Forward in Faith. After Fr Cavell’s retirement, a Forward in Faith priest Fr Ross Northing SSC was appointed by the PCC as incumbent Rector of All Saints Calverton and Vicar of St Mary & St Giles Stony Stratford (the two parishes merged to become The Parish of Stony Stratford with Calverton on 1 January 2012). In 2015 the PCC passed a resolution under the provisions of the House of Bishops Declaration when the first women bishops were consecrated.

In this interregnum, although by church law ultimately it is the decision of the PCC of the Parish of Stony Stratford with Calverton, it has been decided by the PCC that the views of the congregations of this parish shall inform its decision-making regarding the appointment of a new parish priest. For this reason the PCC has arranged a meeting at 5:00pm on 8 October 2022 in
St Mary & St Giles church in which you can learn more about the respective perspectives of Forward in Faith and The Society as well as Anglo-Catholic priests who are in favour of the ordination of women.

The meeting will be chaired by Area Dean Rev. Tim Norwood with four speakers:

You can ask questions, hear comments from others and reflect on your perspective before telling the PCC your views via a questionnaire which will be handed out at the end of the meeting for return by 16 October 2022. If you are unable to attend the meeting, you will be able to obtain a copy of the questionnaire on Sunday 9 October in both churches.

Your responses to the questionnaire are anonymous unless you choose to write your name and contact details at the end. Only members of the PCC will see the raw data collected by the questionnaire. The PCC may or may not choose to publish the analysis of the data when it announces its decision. It will not publish anything which identifies and connects your name with your views on this topic.

Written by Anna Page, PCC member (September 2022)

The following history of the PCC decisions has been written by Fr Gary Ecclestone.

The PCC has made four separate and discrete choices over the years:

  1. Back in the early 1990s under Fr Cavell it passed Resolutions A & B under the Ordination of Priests (Women) Measure and then petitioned the Bishop of Oxford for extended episcopal care under the terms of the Act of Synod. The Act of Synod created new Episcopal Sees to ensure there were enough bishops to care for traditional Anglo-Catholics, which were Richborough, Ebbsfleet and Beverley referred to as the Provincial Episcopal Visitors, as their work crossed the boundaries of the various individual dioceses; they worked under the direction of the Archbishops at the invitation of Diocesan Bishops. The Diocese of London revived the See of Fulham to provide local arrangements in London. At this point the Bishop of Oxford invited the Bishop of Ebbsfleet (whom the legislation had nominated for the purpose) to have pastoral and sacramental care of the parish.
  2. Once the Parish had done that it was eligible to affiliate to Forward in Faith, which it chose to do. Membership of FinF is purely optional but FinF resources the work of traditionalist parishes and bishops, it has a full time director, part time researcher and produces a monthly magazine ‘New Directions’ it acts to represent the movement to the wider church and as an umbrella organisation coordinating events and activities alongside other organisations such as ACS, the Church Union etc. Forward in Faith has individual members and corporate (i.e. parish) members.
  3. In 2015 that legislation was superseded upon the CofE’s decision to consecrate women to the episcopate. All parishes that were cared for under the previous provisions needed to pass a new Resolution under the provisions of what is called the House of Bishops Declaration. This was done by the PCC once again. The See of Ebbsfleet remained available for the Bishop of Oxford to call upon, which he did.
  4. As part of the new arrangements it was necessary to form a new body (The Society of St Wilfred and St Hilda – referred to usually as simply The Society) which would gather together those Bishops to whom the Archbishops and Diocesan Bishops could look to provide pastoral and sacramental care for Declaration Parishes. These bishops included the Provincial Episcopal Visitors. The Bishop of Fulham, and those bishops serving in dioceses who are traditional Anglo-Catholics i.e. Chichester, Lewes, Burnley and Wakefield. The Archbishops invite these bishops to consecrate new bishops to serve the Declaration Parishes. This ensures that our bishops continue in the unbroken apostolic succession and therefore ensures sacramental assurance for traditional Anglo-Catholic Anglicans. The CofE also makes provision for traditional Evangelicals, currently by way of the Bishop of Maidstone.
  5. Having passed a Resolution under the House of Bishops Declaration (and only then) PCCs then have the opportunity of formally affiliating with The Society. Affiliation is not obligatory.

The PCC is now faced with ONE legal decision and TWO pastoral decisions:

The legal decision is as to whether the PCC wishes to retain the current Resolution under the House of Bishops Declaration or not. If it does the Parish will continue to be cared for by the Bishop of Ebbsfleet (or in fact his successor the new Bishop of Oswestry). If it does retain the current Resolution, then the PCC can subsequently review the TWO pastoral decisions, whether it wishes to remain affiliated formally to Forward in Faith and to The Society both of which are optional. It could even decide to suspend membership of those organisations pending the appointment of a new Parish Priest for further discussion with them once they are in post.

If the PCCs votes to rescind the Resolution previously passed under the House of Bishops Declaration, then affiliation to FinF and The Society would automatically lapse and the episcopal care of the parish would revert to the Bishop of Buckingham.