Lambeth Perspective - Two Integrities Respected

England: Monday, 10 August 1998

This report was filed by Simon Sarmiento, back in St Albans.

Other Anglicans Online coverage, with links to many other articles, is on the web at

Lambeth Perspective - Two Integrities Respected

This report covers some events that happened last Thursday. I'm sorry for the delay but I think it is worth recording the detail on Resolution III.2 which was entitled 'Unity of the Anglican Communion' but which was more specifically about the position in the church of those who oppose the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate.

Originally the wording of this resolution in the blue book was as follows, and it was suggested as appropriate for the Agreed List procedure, i.e. no debate at all.

This Conference, committed to maintaining the overall unity of the Anglican Communion, including the unity of each diocese under the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop,

(a) believes such unity is essential to the overall effectiveness of the Church's mission to bring the Gospel of Christ to all people;

(b) for the purpose of maintaining this unity, calls upon the provinces of the Communion to uphold the principle of 'Open Reception' as it relates to the ordination of women to the priesthood as indicated by the Eames Commission, and

(c) in particular calls upon the provinces of the Communion to affirm that those who dissent from, as well as those who assent to, the ordination of women are not disloyal Anglicans, and that there will be no coercion, penalization, or canonical disability for those supporting or objecting to the ordination of women to the priesthood and that no bishop will be obliged to ordain, license or institute a woman priest in that bishop's diocese.

However, when the time came, debate had been requested, and a replacement motion was proposed by the Bishop of Dunedin (New Zealand), Penny Jamieson. She and the Bishop of Edmonton (Canada), Victoria Matthews, had discussed this issue with a number of traditionalist bishops, including Geoffrey Rowell, Suffragan Bishop of Basingstoke (England), and the revised proposal was also backed by Bp Rowell's diocesan, Michael Scott-Joynt, Bishop of Winchester, who does ordain women. It was opposed either in debate, or outside the hall, by several American bishops, both male and female, including Barbara Harris, Suffragan of Massachusetts, Catherine Roskam, Suffragan of New York, the Bishop of Indianapolis, Catherine Waynick, and Chilton Knudsen, Bishop of Maine.

The amendments proposed by Penny Jamieson were as follows.

Leave out subsections (b) and (c) and insert the following subsections -

(b) for the purposes of maintaining this unity, call upon the provinces of the Communion to uphold the principle of 'Open Reception' as it relates to the ordination of women to the priesthood as indicated by the Eames Commission, noting that "reception is a long and spiritual process." (Grindrod Report);

(c) in particular calls upon the provinces of the Communion to affirm that those who dissent from as well as those who assent to the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate are both loyal Anglicans;

(d) therefore calls upon the Provinces of the Communion to make such provision, including appropriate episcopal ministry, as will enable them to live in the highest degree of Communion possible, recognising that there is and should be no compulsion on any bishop in matters concerning ordination or licensing;

(e) also affirms that "although some of the means by which communion is expressed may be strained or broken, there is a need for courtesy, tolerance, mutual respect, and prayer for one another, and we confirm that our desire to know or be with one another, remains binding on us as Christians". (Eames, p. 119).

If these amendments had not passed, then another amendment from the Bishop of Waikato (New Zealand) would have proposed the deletion of all the original wording of subsection (c) after the word "Anglicans". But it never came to this. The revised resolution was fairly easily adopted by a show of hands.

The adopted resolution asks, in effect, for all provinces to adopt the same principles as the Church of England has already adopted. In England, specific arrangements have been made to provide pastoral care to both parishes and individuals who dissent from the church's decision to ordain women. In dioceses which do not make their own internal arrangements for this, the Provincial Episcopal Visitors, Suffragans of either Canterbury or York, will do so on behalf of the relevant archbishop, even if the local diocesan is unco-operative. There are however, no dioceses in the Church of England where women are legally unable to exercise ordained ministry, even though a number of diocesans are themselves dissenters from women's ordination. Similar arrangements exist in Wales, but not in Scotland, nor (I think) in Ireland. There are those in England who are unhappy with the arrangements and would like to see less tolerance, but this resolution makes it less likely that such a change will occur. Of course England still lacks legislation to permit women bishops, and this seems to be something which is several years away from resolution.

There seemed to be a clear difference of opinion between Americans and everybody else on this resolution. Canadian Bishop Victoria Matthews said, "At this Lambeth Conference I have been received with a gracious and generous spirit . . . and as one of the first generation of women bishops, I ask that we keep this same spirit of graciousness and generosity as we continue the process of open reception [of female clergy]." She said dissent can be creative for the mind of the church.

Prior to the plenary Bishop Matthews said, "I have no idea the number of years the process of reception of women clergy will take. The church grows into fullness of being by prayer and waiting on the spirit. I would hope that it would be a matter of time before all three orders of women clergy are accepted, but I could be wrong. The possibility of a reversal is there."

Bishop Jamieson said: "During our discussions there were deep and real disagreements. Our small group began by being suspicious of each other, but as trust between us began to grow it became our prayer that we could agree on an amendment that we could offer to this Communion as a way of deepening our communion in the heart of God while and because of our respect for our differences."

At the Friday morning press conference, when the panel of bishops included Paul Richardson (now an assistant bishop in Newcastle, England), Harry Goodhew, Archbishop of Sydney and Victoria Matthews, a reporter asked the panel to state their views on how many of them were bishops. They replied that all the members of the panel were bishops. In general, the women bishops seem to have been one of the least controversial aspects of the conference. For those who remember the furore ten years ago when one bishop-elect was in attendance, this is quite remarkable.

Copyright © 1998 Society of Archbishop Justus.
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