WE WELCOME the publication of the Rochester Report. The whole Church is indebted to the Bishop of Rochester and members of the Rochester Commission for giving us, in this report, a balanced and fair account of the office and work of a bishop in the Catholic tradition, as traditionally received and understood.
|Bishop Keith Newton, SSC|
Those who believe, with the universal Church, that a bishop is ordained within the apostolic succession to hand down apostolic teaching from his predecessors, the Twelve Apostles, and to hold fast to orthodox faith and practice in association with faithful bishops throughout the world, will find this belief eloquently expressed in the Rochester Report.
Though the Report seeks diligently and even-handedly to explore the question of whether women may or should be admitted to the college of bishops, it is not surprising that an adequate case for such a development, within the framework of Catholic Order, has not been made. Such a case would require, as a minimum, the agreement of the great communions, East and West that believe in the sacrament of Order, that such a development would be consonant with Scripture and tradition. It would also require an understanding of why a change of such moment is suddenly both theologically comprehensible and imperative.
|Bishop Andrew Burnham, SSC|
Where the Report is least satisfactory is in its exploring of a range of ways by which the Church of England could proceed to ordain women to the episcopate. It is hard to envisage any real and intelligible intermediate points between, on the one hand, for ecumenical and scriptural reasons not admitting women to the episcopate, and, on the other, allowing women to proceed to the episcopate on the same basis as men.
We call upon the Church of England to continue to make due and permanent provision, as it solemnly undertook to do when it provided for the ordination of women as priests, for those who do not accept the doctrinal orthodoxy or sacramental validity of admitting women to the Catholic orders of bishop and priest. Equally we would urge the Church of England to avoid any stained glass ceiling solutions which offer women a participation in the episcopate which a modern equal opportunities culture would rightly regard as inferior or second class.
Notwithstanding that, we ask the Church of England, because of the distinct and international ministry of the Archbishop of Canterbury, to require that the Archbishop of Canterbury be a male bishop who does not himself consecrate women to the episcopate until such time as the provinces of the Anglican Communion as a whole, for whom his ministry is a focus, can be said to have accepted the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate.
If the Church of England proceeds to the ordination of women to the episcopate, the most godly way of accomplishing all that is needed to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace is to create local churches of traditional believing within a lean but effective small province in the Church of England. This would allow the remaining dioceses of the Church of England to move unhindered, if that be their wish, to ordain women as chief pastors. The new province would be larger than several Christian denominations in England and it would be unlikely to be even the smallest Anglican province in the British Isles. As a province of the Church of England, it would be a province to which priests and parishes could come and go: there would be no banishment nor deprivation, no schism nor sectarianism.
The new province would be free to pursue from the very start the urgent task of regaining unity with those communions which retain a male episcopate and priesthood. Forming such a bridge to the great churches of East and West has been understood as a particular task of Anglicans for most of the last four hundred years. It would also work closely with and embrace all who believe and confess what is taught in Holy Scripture.
There are some signs of an emerging intolerance amongst liberal spokesmen. True liberalism is humane, intellectually spacious and pragmatically tolerant. In a multi-faith society, where major religions and Christian denominations continue to be served by male clergy, it is insensitive and simplistic to suggest that such arrangements are matters of sexual discrimination rather than principled responses to what are believed to be matters of religious revelation.
Within the inevitable pluriformity of the national Church of England, with its vocation to care for all sorts and conditions, any move against adequate provision for parishes which look to traditionalist bishops and priests for support â€“ many of them parishes in inner urban areas of great poverty - would be a grievous sin against the Body of Christ and a retreat from the Christian imperatives of mission and evangelism.
X Andrew Ebbsfleet
X Keith Richborough
All Souls' Day, 2004