Saturday, June 21, 2014

Ecclesiastical Family Trees

Forward in Faith, the traditionalist catholic organisation has made a statement about what it expects in a future C of E where there are female bishops. You can read it here. There is a commitment within the new legislation that there will be provision for those who do not recognise the ministry of women priests and bishops.

However, it gets complicated...

Once we have women who are bishops, they will be authorised to officiate at services in roles currently not open to women. They will ordain people - men and women. However, if your beliefs are that a woman cannot be a bishop, then those ordinations are not valid. That means that gender will no longer be a visible signifier of whether an ordination to the priesthood is valid in the eyes of a traditionalist.

It gets messier..

If women bishops preside at or even share in the ordination (or consecration) of a male bishop then that would create problems for traditionalists for that male bishop's future ministry. The FiF statement implies that even male bishops involved in such an ordination would be problematic if they were then involved in the ordination of a bishop intended to be acceptable to traditionalists.

What I don't know is how someone confirmed by a woman would be viewed by FiF. Presumably the confirmation wouldn't be seen as valid either, although they could presumably receive communion in a FiF as people desirous of being confirmed.

I'm not even clear on my own 'status' as a priest in the eyes of purists. I was ordained deacon and priest before 1994, but I was involved in the first ordinations of women as priests in 1994. Priests join with the bishop in laying on hands and praying at the point of ordination, and I was privileged to be invited to do so on two occasions. That doesn't seem to have been a problem to colleagues in the past, but it may be for some.

What all this points to is that the future is going to be complicated. Will future generations of those who wish to minister to traditionalists need a kind of family tree, in order to demonstrate that their ordination is acceptable? It'll be messy, that's for sure. This is the Church of England, after all.

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