WATCH is deeply saddened by the announcement that the two new Bishops in Chichester diocese, the Bishops of Horsham and Lewes, will not be consecrated together in one service by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Had there been a joint consecration, even with some special arrangements, there would have been a clear witness to the stated aim of the fullest possible communion which is central to mutual flourishing in the Five Guiding Principles.
It is still not clear whether the Archbishop of Canterbury will consecrate Ruth Bushyager as the Bishop of Horsham. For him not to consecrate any of these new bishops in his province has serious ecclesiological implications.
We are told by Forward in Faith that these special arrangements have been made so that The Revd Prebendary William Hazelwood can ‘experience the sacramental assurance and the joy of full communion with the bishops who ordain them.’ Apparently this rules out the Archbishop of Canterbury. The new Bishop of Lewes will not be in full communion with his Archbishop because he has ordained women as priests and bishops. This looks like a theology of taint. Although we are repeatedly told that Forward in Faith does not adhere to a theology of taint, this is exactly what the rejection of consecration by the Archbishop or any other (male) bishop who has ordained women looks like. It is, we are told a theology of impaired communion and any Bishop or Archbishop can restore the communion with society priests and bishops by repenting of their support of women’s ministry. However this arrangement is defined, it sustains an argument that simply to lay hands on a woman to ordain her puts you outside the sacramental assurance that Prebendary William chooses to experience.
Yet again women are meant to accept this public statement about the Church of England’s ambiguous attitude to their ministry. The first and second guiding principles make it clear that the Church is non-discriminatory in terms of gender and that it has made up its mind about the full acceptance of the sacramental ministry of women. Once again, it would seem that even our Archbishops are tainted through their affirmation of women’s ministry. No wonder we are struggling to attract younger women into ordained ministry. No wonder so many women within the church describe the Five Guiding Principles and the term mutual flourishing as an open wound.
Of course, we pray that The Rev Ruth Bushyagar and Prebendary William Hazelwood will have fruitful ministries in the diocese of Chichester and wish them both joy in their new roles. Yet, we find it tragic for them and the Church of England that even in their consecration, mutual avoidance has won out over mutual flourishing.
Revd Canon Dr Emma Percy
Chair of WATCH