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February 01, 2006

Why do traditional Anglicans oppose the ordination of women bishops? Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen explains

Posted by Peter Mullen

Why do traditional High Church Anglicans oppose the ordination of women bishops? Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen - Rector of St Michael's, Cornhill & Chaplain to the Stock Exchange - argues that it is not because they think women are not up to the job. Rather it is because traditional Anglicans believe for scriptural reasons - that it is no more possible for a woman to be a bishop than it is for a woman to be a man. Furthermore, the ordination of women bishops would set back the cause of unity with the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

There was a nice irony in joining the 5000 High Church Anglicans who packed the Methodist Westminster Hall last Saturday (28th January 2006) for a great meeting called Forward in Hope. This was to discuss how traditional Church of England people should respond to the innovation of women bishops which is being foisted upon the church by the liberal hierarchy and the progressivist mafia in the General Synod. These people are called liberals - but, like their secular counterparts, they are politically-correct bossy-boots who for the last thirty years have thrust gimmicky policies on us willy-nilly.

Their argument goes like this: western societies have accepted sex-equality. We have women doctors, judges and even women members of the Carlton Club, so there should be no bar on women becoming priests. Indeed since 1992 women's ordination has been a reality in the Church of England. And if women priests, then women bishops too: for it would be unfair to ordain a woman priest and at the same time declare she could rise no higher in the realm of ecclesiastical orders.

Those tens of thousands of church people who objected to the ordination of women back in 1992 were guaranteed by the Act of Synod something called alternative pastoral oversight "flying bishops" to have authority over them. This system has worked pretty well. So why cannot it be extended to cope with the innovation of women bishops? Because, say traditionalists, the office of a bishop is one that has far greater significance than that of a priest. It defines the church. So to consecrate women as bishops is to alter the nature of the church at its root.

The solution proposed by traditionalists is that of a Third Province alongside the provinces of Canterbury and York a distinct realm of authority not tainted by the authority of women bishops. Such a province would be a full but distinct part of the Church of England professing loyalty to the Queen and to the doctrine of the Church as expressed in the ancient formularies the Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-nine Articles.

Of course the liberal hierarchy and the synodical mafia don't want to allow a Third Province - because those parishes joining it might no longer pay dues to the central diocesan authorities. They might begin to take charge of their own assets too. The result rightly feared by the modernisers is that the declining liberal rump in the church would find itself impoverished and fast disappearing. For the scarcely-believing demythologisers and trendy hierarchy which has presided over the church's decline this last generation are now fading fast. Whereas the traditionalists everywhere are in the ascendant.

Tricky negotiations have been put on hold until the summer. Meanwhile it does no harm to make clear that traditionalists are not opposed to women bishops because they think women are not up to the job intellectually, theologically or pastorally. Traditionalists are against women bishops because they do not think it is logically possible for a woman to be a bishop as it is not possible for a woman to be a man. Jesus Christ ordained only men and gave them authority in the church. The Bible and Prayer Book say that a bishop must be "the husband of one wife". In the whole of Scripture and tradition therefore it is assumed that only a man may be consecrated bishop.

Besides there is the question of the competence of the church to ordain and consecrate women. The Church of England seeks reunion with fellow Christians in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. And those churches have made it plain that they will not ordain women and they will not consider sharing full communion with any church which does ordain women. The consecration of bishops would thus cut off the church yet more severely from its historical roots and the very universality for which Anglicans pray constantly and especially as we prayed recently in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The consecration of women as bishops is unscriptural and against the whole historical perspective of the church. As an ecumenical policy it would be disastrous. It is strange to find that those who run the Church of England these days bishops, synodsfolk and the like care more for aping the politically-correct practices of decadent secular society than they care for the good health of the universal Church and the Church of England in particular.

Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen is Rector of St Michael's, Cornhill & Chaplain to the Stock Exchange.

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