I tried the argument in my last post on our Archdeacon when I saw her on Wednesday and she offered me exactly the opposite point of view, so I may be wrong yet again.
There is no Ecclesiastical Committee yet in place for the new Parliament, but there is a new Second Church Estates Commissioner (the MP who steers General Synod Measures through Parliament). He is thus a new ex-officio member of General Synod and I’ve now had a look at what he said in the debate, which, if it persuaded a tiny handful of clergy who would not otherwise have done so to vote against the Archbishops’ amendment, may have made all the difference.
He said his personal opinions would not matter as he’d be neutral in attempting to steer through any Measure General Synod passed. He said his personal opinion happened to be that it should become legal for women to become Bishops.
He argued from scripture: God entrusted the first proclamation of the Resurrection to women (and yesterday, 22 July, happened to be the feast of Mary Magdalen, ‘Apostle to the Apostles’).
He argued from reason: leadership by women, once almost unthinkable in any context, has been found to be widely valued and fruitful (including the Vicars of the two major parishes in his constituency, and of the parish in which he worships, and the most significant civic leaders in the area).
He didn’t argue from tradition.
But, he said, Parliament is a different place to the 1990s, has recently strengthened equality legislation, and would be unlikely to take kindly to a Measure which appeared to qualify the status of women Bishops in any way. In the 1990s, the Ecclesiastical Committee wanted to make sure that provision for women priests included safeguards for objectors. Today, he opined, it would be certain to want provision for women Bishops not to be undermined by the extnet of such safeguards.
We will see who is right (but perhaps only if the Measure in its final form does achieves a majority of two thirds in each ‘House’ of a new General Synod about to be elected).
If the Second Church Estates Commissioner is right, then the question of whether or not provision for objectors should be by Code of Practice (as in the present version of the Measure, which they see as no fundamental safeguard at all) or by legal provision (the Archbishops’ suggestion which didn’t get into the present version of the Measure, which they desire) will be determined by a secular political understanding of equality quite independent of any weighing of Christian scripture, tradition or reason.
Whatever the rights and wrongs, this is exactly the process of decision making the Catholic movement in the Church of England has always feared.
Meanwhile, a grave at St Michael’s was vandalised in the week: the broken cross was found elsewhere in the churchyard, and the heart memorial down by the river.
I’ve honoured Bert by reviving his memory in looking him up in the burial register and his family in the 1911 census. His father was also a Bert who’d come from Harwich, worked as an oil boiler, and married a seventeen year old Grimsby girl (Jane Riley) in 1902.
In 1911, shortly before Bert’s birth, they lived at 10 Hargrave Street with his three older sisters (Doris, Gladys and Ivy). It was still the family address when he died in 1927 aged 15, and they seemed to have worked hard at what appear to be hand made memorials to him which had survived for over eighty years.