The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have written a proposal in which they suggest a “new” way forward for the consideration of Synod. They seem propose that, rather than powers being delegated from the diocesan bishop, there will be a co-ordinate role. Any parish could write a letter of request to have access to a nominated bishop, but that bishop would have to act in conjunction with the diocesan bishop and would have to act in accordance with the plan drawn up by the diocesan under the terms of the Code of Conduct.
I have only quickly read the proposal, and it is a bit more complex than that and not entirely clear cut! I am not good at quickly assimilating such documents, but I think it throws up as many questions and problems as it aims to answer. These were my , very inexpert, thoughts:
1. Couldn’t this just be seen as effectively delegating authority but calling it by another name? It seems to be optional, but expected for the diocesan bishop to comply - it says diocesans would "in practice" refrain from exercising their ministry in parishes that are opposed?
2. Isn’t being expected to share authority, when this wouldn’t normally be the case for a man , still an affront to the autonomy and dignity of a diocesan bishop? How effective would a Code of Practice be in the case of conflicts?
3. If it is the case that the nominated bishop is truly acting in conjunction with the diocesan rather than acting in his own right, would the fact that he was taking advice from a woman still be a problem for the most hard line Anglo-Catholics or Evangelicals? It is certainly not statutory transfer. Would there be the right to insist that the nominated bishop has not been ordained by a woman - or by a man ordained by a woman...
4. The document seems to suggest that the proposals apply equally to men and women and that, " women will enjoy exactly the same legal rights as men", a statement which suggests an awareness that sooner or later the Church may fall foul of the law of the land on this issue. This “same rights as men” claim seems disingenuous since the vast majority affected would be women, but also begs the question of on what grounds might or could a parish object to a male bishop? Could a parish, hypothetically, say that they would prefer a female bishop? Are they thinking ahead to when parishes may reject a male bishop who was ordained by a female bishop? Surely this is still discrimination which has its roots in gender bias?
5. The Archbishops explain that these new proposals would not involve a further round through the Revision Committee. One response is, “Thank the Lord for that”, the other is that if Rowan Williams and John Sentamu were going to come up with a fiendishly cunning plan ( see Blackadder clip) two weeks before the start of Synod, why the heck did the Revision Committee spend all those months deliberating over the issues and possible ways forward?
(Answers on a postcard, please)