The bishops of the Church of England recently produced a plan in the hope of passing legislation to be able to ordain women bishops by 2015. This follows the defeat of legislation attempting to authorise this move in the CofE’s General Synod six months ago.
I last wrote about this in November last year. There I questioned Anglican lack of theological clarity:
The Anglican Church has never been clear whether bishops are senior priests/presbyters to whom priests delegate some of the powers that are theirs by ordination; or are bishops the primary ordained clergy, and priests are, as it were, delegates of the bishop in a particular meeting of the church, the fullness of which is the diocese around the bishop?
Should the theological work have started at whether women can be bishops – and discussion about women priests would have followed consequentially?
In any case, nowhere, as far as I know, has followed this principal. All have followed the pragmatism of let’s-ordain-women-priests-first-and-see-how-that-goes, and much of the momentum has derived from catching up with the equality that “the world” in the church’s local context takes for granted, rather than engagement with our theological tradition. I would be one of the last to say that the Spirit does not speak to the Church through “the world” – but the acceptance of that bears on the more-heated debate about the place of homosexuals. Around the debates, then, on gender and sexuality, are other debates on authority, and how we discern God’s will.
Rev. Dr. Peter Carrell challenged my assertion:
I stand to be corrected if I am wrong, Bosco, but are you in error when you write, “In any case, nowhere, as far as I know, has followed this principal. All have followed the pragmatism of let’s-ordain-women-priests-first-and-see-how-that-goes, and much of the momentum has derived from catching up with the equality that “the world” in the church’s local context takes for granted, rather than engagement with our theological tradition.”?
I thought that in our church (ACANZP) we decided in one go that women may be priests and bishops.
But then I could be wrong …
In fact, I am right, and Peter is wrong. But people may be (un)surprised how immensely difficult it was to dig up this information!
For the ordination of women to the priesthood, General Synod (GS) 1970 asked dioceses to report to a commission. At GS 1972 a Bill to amend the Constitution was lost in the House of Clergy. But a motion approving in principle the ordination of women to the priesthood was passed. GS1974 passed a statute to amend the Constitution allowing women to be ordained to the priesthood. This was confirmed (after going around the diocesan synods) in 1976. And, after the required delay of a year, the first women were ordained as priests in 1977.
In 1986 GS passed Statute 414 “to clarify the meaning of the word ‘Bishop’ as being capable of including a female” which amended the Constitution and also enacted a Canon on Holy Orders. This was passed unanimously, and was confirmed (after going around the diocesan synods) at GS 1988.
Penny Jamieson was the second woman to be ordained a bishop in the Anglican world, and the first to be a diocesan bishop. This happened in 1989, after the required waiting of the year after GS confirmed the possibility. She was the seventh bishop of Dunedin, retiring in 2004. Victoria Matthews was the first woman bishop in the Anglican Church of Canada (1994). Bishop Victoria is the eighth bishop of Christchurch, having been here since 2008.
Thanks to Dr Tony Fitchett, and the librarians at the John Kinder Theological Library
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