Their Graces of Canterbury & York have proposed a scheme which they seem to think may allow the proposed legislation enabling the consecration of women bishops within the Church of England to go ahead smoothly and with minimal opposition.
From where I stand, they are wrong.
First, because their solution ignores the theological problem of intention. It might work for a time, whilst there are male bishops out there whose succession and consecration has not been touched (I nearly said ‘tainted’) by women bishops, or those who have been involved with ordaining women bishops. However, the time will inevitably come when all surviving bishops will have been involved, at least at some level, with one or both of these; at which point the ‘nominated bishops’ will themselves, although male, be theologically unacceptable to the parishes they are in theory there to serve because the integrity of their intention in the consecration process will have been irretreivably compromised.
Secondly because the problem seems to me to skip too lightly over the legal issues. It’s all very well saying that the diocesan bishops will ‘in practice refrain from exercising certain of his or her functions in such a parish’; but that is only to be a matter of a ‘Code of Practice’ : which in turn has no legal force, and could therefore be ignored by such a diocesan at any time, with no hope of recourse by the parish – which, given how strongly views have been expressed by certain leading figures in the movement supporting the consecration of women, must be a real concern.
Ultimately, these proposals appear to me to be little more than a fudge, intended to find some ‘wiggle room’, and persuade at least some people to ‘hang on in there’, rather than leaving now : but I think that most of those who are seriously opposed to the proposal have rather too much theological - and probably legal - savvy to fall for the Archbishops’ plan.
I can sympathise with the Archbishops for wanting to avoid the complete collapse of the Church of England : but then they have only themselves (and, to be fair, their predecessors and the General Synod) to blame for the position in which it finds itself.
After the Ordination of Women Measure was passed, Revd Paul Williamson sought to have it overturned on the grounds that it was contrary to the passage in the Coronation Oath where the Monarch swears to protect the Doctrines of the Church of England. Sadly, what he had failed to appreciate was that, over the years, the position has become that the Doctrines of the Church of England are whatever General Synod says they are this week, so his attempt failed. No doubt he, or someone else, will try and do the same thing again this time : and it will fail just as surely.
Sadly, the Church of England’s only unchangeable doctrine is now that there are no unchangeable doctrines . . . not a position over which I, for one, would care to preside. Who can blame the Archbishops for trying to find a way out of doing so ?