by Rachel Marszalek
Richard Hooker in a purple sea – REM
Quotation from the Rt Rev Michael Perham, Bishop of Gloucester
I disagree with the Rt Rev Michael Perham, Bishop of Gloucester, I do not think that women would leave the Church of England if plans to implement female bishops failed. I think there are two aspects of this statement that need exploring.
Primarily, is it not a little myopic to assume that only women would leave? There are a great number of men too who would join these hypothetical women, men just as passionate as women that there is good biblical precedent for supporting female ascension to the episcopate. There are passionate, Bible-believing evangelicals who would feel gutted if the motion was defeated.
But secondly, I doubt these people would leave. Theirs is not a quest for power, and if thwarted and defeated, they leave! Those hoping that the episcopate be opened up to women bear a desire to see servant-leadership in the hands of human people who are both male and female, a desire to be better representative in this representative role. There has been much grace shown to those who hold the alternative theological integrity and I am sure grace would continue to be extended.
Schism instigated by women will not come if women are not able to become bishops, only some women womenand men might leave. Schism will come if those who do not believe that women should be bishops become bishops – so much will have been invested in this one, small point which is not a salvation issue anyway, that the Ordinariate and the break-away groups will begin to swell. Let’s hope that either way, schism is avoided.
…and a little light from Richard Hooker:
Harrison describes how Hooker enables Anglicans to declare with confidence that ‘Life has changed and so must the structure of the church, in order to be truly faithful.’1 Tradition is the sum of the customs adopted by our forebears, which they deemed appropriate by application of their reasoning faculties, inspired as they were by the Holy Spirit as they read the Scriptures. The theological method must always involve the interplay of Scripture, Tradition and Reason for a church that will continually change and respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Article 34 of the 39 articles states ‘It is not necessary that traditions and ceremonies be in all places one, or utterly like, for at all times they have been diverse, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men’s manners, [yet] so that nothing be ordained against God’s word.’2
As Hooker describes it, ‘Canons, Constitutions, and Laws which have been at one time meet, do not prove that the Church should always be bound to follow them.’3
There are interesting implications in Hooker’s reasoning for the debate currently impacting Anglicanism, the consecration of women. Although Atkinson4 uses Hooker to support his conservative stance, Hooker reasoned that the church must change if change is justified by considering ‘the ende for which it was made, and by the aptnes of thinges therein prescribed unto the same end.’5
Hooker’s appeal to the Puritan conscience, disturbed by episcopacy, might speak today to those whom, for matters of conscience, can not accept the episcopacy of women. Hooker describes how if ‘Things were disputed before they came to be determined; men afterwards were not to dispute any longer, but to obey.’ Hooker calls for an obedience to the majority decision as ‘ground sufficient for any reasonable man’s conscience… whatsoever his own opinion were as touching the matter before in question.’ 6
So Hooker’s call is for obedience, except if there is ‘any just or necessary cause’7 against it. However, necessary causes must not be those that can not be substantiated by everyone else’s consciences being equally disturbed. He explains, ‘Neither wish we that men should do anything which in their hearts they are persuaded they ought not to do, but,’ and the “but” betrays, with what follows, that he will not look kindly on individual dissenters, when ‘my whole endeavour is to resolve the conscience … [to] follow the light of sound and sincere judgement, without either cloud of prejudice, or mist of passionate affection.’8 Passionate affections can lead people astray, is the implication, and dissenters are to be guided by the majority opinion on a matter of possible controversy.
Hooker’s aim, in the middle of controversy, is for unity.
1 Harrison, ‘Prudence and Custom’
2 C of E, The Thirty Nine Articles
3 BOOK VII, Ch. xv. 14
4 See Atkinson, ‘Hooker’s Theological Method and Modern Anglicanism’
5 BOOK, III, Ch. x, 1
6 Preface, Preface, Ch. V. 3,
7 Preface, Ch. vi. 5, 6
8 Preface, Ch. vii. 1, 2
…and from Richard to Rowan!
Tues 7th Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure: Draft Code of Practice (GS Misc 1007)
Wed 8th Diocesan Synod Motion: Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure (GS 1854A, GS 1854B, GS 1854C, GS 1854C Addendum)
Thurs 9th Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure (GS 1708B), Draft Amending Canon (GS 1709B), Report by the Steering Committee (GS 1708-9Z) [item 502]