The Archbishops have today issued an explanatory statement concerning the amendments to Clause 5 and Clause 8 of the Women Bishops legislation made earlier this week. They say that the amendments are not intended to alter the principles behind the legislation and these amendments have indeed been declared to not to substantially alter the legislation - and so conveniently not to require approval by dioceses - by the "group of six." These amendments, the Archishops claim, are more in the nature of clarifications than actual changes. There are two areas they wish to clarify, the first concerning the nature of delegation and the second concerning what a parish may be able to require in the bishop to whom functions are being delegated. (Are you all following this...wake up at the back!)
Firstly the Archbishops explain delegation:
"Delegation describes the giving of that authority. It does not take anything away from the diocesan bishop who delegates; it just allows another bishop to minister legally in the diocesan’s area of oversight."
So far, so good. Then they go on to the thornier issue of whether parishes can "choose" their episcopal oversight. The answer is that the Code of Practice will have to lay down guidance on what a diocesan would have to do to ensure that they get a bishop who can work constructively with such a parish but this does not give the right for a parish to "choose" that bishop.
"It does not give parishes the right to ‘choose their own bishop’ or insist that their bishop has a particular set of beliefs. It allows them to ask for episcopal ministry, as spelled out in Clause 2 of the Measure, only on the grounds of theological conviction about women’s ordained ministry."
I am sure I wasn't the only one who got a sense when reading the Forward in Faith statement, that the amendments would be pushed as far down the road to as possible towards that ability to "choose" a bishop.
"Forward in Faith welcomes the amendments to the draft legislation on women bishops passed by the House of Bishops on Monday.
The first amendment secures the provision of bishops for traditional catholics and conservative evangelicals who are not simply male, but who share the theological convictions of those to whom they will minister. For traditional catholics, that means bishops ordained into the historic episcopate as we understand it. The draft Measure now recognises that our position is one of legitimate theological conviction for which the Church of England must provide. This principle will be enshrined in law."(My emphasis)
FIF also picked up eagerly on the wording in the amendments about from whence a bishop's authority is derived. They write:
"The second amendment helpfully clarifies that the charism of episcopal ministry derives from the fact of a bishop's ordination, and is NOT by delegation from another bishop." (My emphasis)
So, can parishes choose or can they not? If they can't actively choose a candidate, will they be able to reject the ones they don't like until they get the one they do? And how is that different from choosing? Is the intention to give parishes choice by the back door? If it is and it is considered right and proper, why not just say so? And what of delegation? Will delegation just be delegation, or will some claim episcopal ministry (and authority) derives from ordination and delegation doesn't matter?
Is it just me- or are matters still a little confused?