Cost of Conscience evaluates new Archbishop's stand on Women Bishops and more
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Mon Dec 23 01:00:33 EST 2002
Cost of Conscience evaluates new Archbishop's stand on Women Bishops
By Francis Gardom
The obiter dictum of Archbishop Rowan Williams during his pre-election
newspaper interview that a "Free" or "Third" or "Alternative" Province
was, in his view, an idea which was "worth considering" has meant that
much of the most recent meetings, both of Forward in Faith (at London
Colney in early December) and Cost of Conscience with the PEVs (at
Broomhill a few days later) were concerned with considering how best to
respond to this new, and welcome attitude on his part. It was the
unanimous opinion of both of these bodies that his statement should be
treated with the utmost seriousness, bearing in mind, of course, that
he can do no more than influence any discussion which takes place
either in the House of Bishops or General Synod.
As recently as a few months ago it was unthinkable that the matter
would even come up in the foreseeable future, at least until the
Rochester Commission on the theological implications of Women Bishops
had reported its findings. This, in turn has given rise to a wait-and-
see attitude, not by any means complacent but, very reasonably,
suggesting to people's minds that there was not much point in
considering a matter which was not even on the agenda.
Fortunately, we had anticipated this to the extent of setting up
working groups to look into the following questions:
What would be the legal and constitutional implications of such a Free
What would be its relationship to the Church of England and to the
decisions of General Synod?
Would such a Province be financially self-supporting, and if not, how
far short of it would it fall?
How many of our constituent parishes would, in the final analysis, vote
to associate themselves with the Province should it come into being?
Thanks to the foresight and diligence of Forward in Faith assisted and
encouraged to a considerable extent by the Cost of Conscience Survey,
The Mind of Anglicans, this process is much further advanced than would
have been the case had we followed the wait-and-see policy which
characterized much of the run-up to the Women Priests debate and vote
The A/B/C Database
Cost of Conscience has for its part undertaken to produce an enhanced
database of all the parishes which appear in the list of those opposed
to women priests; not only those which have passed Resolutions A, B and
"C" but those where the present incumbent will not permit the services
of women priests.
Glad though we are of the support of such parishes, it is quite evident
on a moment's consideration that the present arrangement cannot
possibly be made to work once there are Women Bishops. For whereas the
Measure, by suspending Canon A4, makes it possible for individual male
priests to continue their ministry whilst doubting the reality of the
orders of women clergy, the Oath of Canonical Obedience is a catch-all
for which no such arrangement will suffice.
Financial Self Support
This leads on to the question of money, and here the work of Fr Ian
Cook, supplemented by the findings of the Survey have proved
invaluable. It would appear that, overall, our constituency is made up
of parishes which "pay their way" and hence could support their own
clergy, especially if they were relieved of the burden of subsidising
the large number of diocesan enterprises for which we have no
Whilst Fr Cook's researches leave no room for complacency, they
indicate that if push came to shove - which it surely must in the
present parlous state of the Church of England's finances - our
parishes would be better placed than the average to remain in business.
The news recently broke that the diocese of Winchester is anticipating
the closure of up to a quarter of its churches in the next decade, and
Winchester is by no means in an impoverished location!
The Marriage Document
Our response to Scott-Joynt's proposals, which were eventually ratified
by Synod in November, was an alternative policy, compiled as a result
of the Keble Workshops by Fr Jonathan Redvers-Harris. This was
presented by the PEVs at the Sacred Synod in November was approved by
the overwhelming majority of those present.
The subsequent reluctance of people to add their name to the list,
administered by Cost of Conscience, of those unwilling to operate the
Scott-Joynt proposals is puzzling. His proposals were that it should be
left solely to the parish priest to decide which, of those persons
previously married with a spouse still living should be married in
church, and on what grounds.
This may be because our priests have decided that from now onwards they
will perform no such marriages even if they have in the past; but it
would still be a worthwhile gesture, to add your name to the list. If
you don't wish to use the Internet, a letter, or telephone call to me
at the address below will be equally effective.
The Survey continued
There is still a considerable mileage to be had, we believe, from
keeping findings of The Mind of Anglicans firmly in the front of
For one thing it is by far and away the most significant enquiry into
the attitudes and beliefs of clergy of all traditions and outlooks
since 1992, and it gives the clearest possible indication that whatever
the beliefs of those responsible for many of the revisionist
innovations to which we have been, and continue to be, subjected by
General Synod, they bear very little relation to the "faith once
delivered to the saints" of which they, like us, are supposed to be the
With this in mind we have arranged a meeting in the New Year with Dr
Peter Brierley of Christian Research, who conducted the survey, to
examine how best to keep that particular pot boiling.
It is worth saying, I think, that I have personally found that the
results of this survey, once people become aware of them, is one of the
arguments for doubting the wisdom of innovations of this kind which
resonates most strongly with those who are uneasy about the way the
Church of England has allowed itself to be led, but who lack the
necessary acumen to understand how all this has come about.
Finally, let me assure you that Cost of Conscience continues in
dialogue with the Traditional Anglican Communion, Reform, the
Glastonbury Pilgrimage and other co-belligerents. It is becoming
increasingly evident that in the years ahead we shall have to find
ourselves more and more inter-dependent with those with whom we find
ourselves fighting on the same side in this battle for the Truth.
The Rev. Francis Gardom is the Honorary chairman of the Cost of
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