Parliament warns the Church of England on women bishops
But Sir Tony urged Mr Davies to discuss his concerns with the Bishop of Bradford. He continued to explain: "One of the greatest threats to the Church’s mission in his constituency is the continuing theft of lead from churches. No fewer than six churches in his constituency have had lead stolen from their roofs — St Peter’s church in Shipley has had lead stolen on four separate occasions, notwithstanding protections such as SmartWater. So may I take this opportunity to entreat my hon Friend, as I know the Bishop of Bradford and the Archbishop of York will, not to frustrate the Third Reading of the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill when it comes before the House soon?"
His Grace is (respectfully) of the view that this is bollocks. The continuing theft of lead from churches is not 'one of the greatest threats to the Church’s mission'. Certainly it is a material inconvenience and diabolical irritation, but the greatest threats to the Church’s mission may be identified severally as weak leadership, ignorance of Scripture and the XXXIX Articles, lukewarm commitment, disrespect for history and tradition, disloyalty to the Supreme Governor, and the preaching of a gospel of perpetual accommodation. Faced with this tsunami of Laodicean indifference, a bit of lead on a roof is utterly inconsequential to the Church's mission.
On women bishops, Simon Hughes MP asked what assessment the Church Commissioners have made of the likelihood of the Church of England making a decision on women bishops in 2012. and Ben Bradshaw MP asked what recent discussions the Church Commissioners have had with Church of England bishops on the Women Bishops Measure.
Sir Tony informed Parliament that the General Synod will resume on 20th November the final approval debate on the legislation to enable women to become bishops. He declared that he will be voting for the Measure, hoping and praying that at least two thirds of the members of every house of the General Synod will join him.
Simon Hughes agreed with Sir Tony, expressing the desire that women bishops might be 'a legacy of the outgoing archbishop and as a tribute to his work', and also because 'we need the Church of England to catch up into the 21st century if it is to do a good job for everybody'. He hoped 'there is no more shilly-shallying, that the Synod gets on with it and that we get a clear decision so that we can move to having women bishops'.
No more shilly-shallying? Does Mr Hughes not realise that the very raison d'être of the Church of England is to shilly-shally in perpetual via media in order that it may unite the nation and offend no-one?
But Ben Bradshaw pushed the point of women bishops: "In his conversations with the bishops, will the Hon. Gentleman tell them that just because House of Lords reform has been abandoned they should not feel any less pressure to do this and that a failure to agree a Measure that gives women bishops equal status with male bishops would still lead to a severe constitutional crisis between Church and state?
To which Sir Tony replied: "In fairness, I think that the House of Bishops recognises that, and when it met last it amended the Measure in a way that should commend support. Indeed, the bishops took a lead on that from the Archbishop of Canterbury, who, in the same article, made it clear that he thought the ordination or consecration of women as bishops was good for the whole world. He said:
“It is good news for the world we live in, which needs the unequivocal affirmation of a dignity given equally to all by God in creation and redemption—and can now, we hope, see more clearly that the Church is not speaking a language completely remote from its own most generous and just instincts.”There is clear leadership from the House of Bishops and from the archbishops that the Church of England must consecrate women bishops. Should Synod decide to the contrary, Sir Tony warned: "I think that the consequences for the Church of England will be very grim indeed. I hope that the General Synod, and those who might be tempted to vote against this Measure in it, will reflect on that point."
Very grim indeed?
One can almost hear, a decade hence, when same-sex marriages are legal and routinely celebrated in the land, calls in Parliament for 'the Church of England to catch up into the 21st century', and warnings, should it fail to do so, that the consequences will be 'very grim indeed'. We will doubtless hear Chris Bryant (and one or two others with an agenda) threaten that the failure to agree a Measure that gives homosexuals equal marriage status with heterosexuals will lead 'to a severe constitutional crisis between Church and state'.
Yes, very grim indeed.