Thursday, 29 November 2007

Anglican group proposes no more ordinations for opponents of women priests

Ed: The Group for Rescinding the Act of Synod has put forward a proposal whereby women would be consecrated bishops and clergy 'Conscientious Objectors' would be provided with work-around arrangements. However, this would spell the end to any further ordination of people opposed to women's ordination, ie the Church as we know it.

[...] Some points of clarification:-
Existing clergy opponents of women’s ordination might be equivalent to those who were conscripted, since ‘their’ church has changed its position around them. And by the same token, one would not expect that new ordinands opposed to women bishops would willingly offer themselves for ministry in a church which has women bishops, or that this would be acceptable.

For the church, the question therefore becomes, not a negotiation with COs as to what will ‘keep them in the church’, but a determination as to ‘what pastoral provision we wish to make as allowance for individual CO situations’. The decision as to what is acceptable as conscientious objection, and the guidelines for acceptable CO behaviour, is made by the church itself in the light of its need for a unified ministry and mission, not the COs themselves.

Disclosure to colleagues and seniors is an essential principle of Conscientious Objection, as in the medical world, allowing adult-to-adult relationships to be developed, where individual consciences are protected but not at the expense of patient care. That might mean clergy conscientious objectors would have an obligation to disclose their position to bishops and parishes, and alternative cover would be provided in instances where they might be compromised (eg CO bishops providing non-CO bishops for ordinations, as at present; or CO area deans having non-CO colleagues as proxies to attend occasions where they judge themselves unable to take full part).

Conscientious Objection could not be held out as representing the mind of the CofE, nor be allowed to weaken or undermine the ministry of women priests or the recognition of women’s ministry. To do so would prejudice the CofE’s mission and service to the nation as a whole. Given adequate disclosure, and negotiation about foreseen conscience problems, it might still be possible to appoint individual COs to senior posts, but provided adequate cover was built into the arrangements. Read more
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