Before the meeting (at 2 pm) the Bishop invited the Chalice Steering Group (Alastair Cutting, Julia Peaty, Lisa Barnett, Ann Clarke, Kirsten Scott, Ali Campbell, Simon Holland, Graham Parr, Rachel Moriarty) to meet him for lunch to discuss key issues.
About 70 people attended the meeting, and another 10 or so sent apologies: The Bishop kindly provided tea and coffee as the audience gathered.
Alastair Cutting (AC) chaired the meeting, first as a dialogue with Bishop Martin, and then to introduce questions from members.
* * * * *
AC introduced the meeting and explained the Chalice Group’s purpose, to make sure that ordained women in Chichester diocese know that they are cared for and supported, and to offer support to the Bishop as he realises that aim. He established by shows of hands that those present included laywomen and men, and men and women priests.
Bishop Martin outlined his own experience of working with women, beginning with women colleagues in Leicester, and at Walsingham. In 1992 there was debate about whether the Shrine should remain in the CofE, or join the RC Church; he regretted the subsequent loss of trust and confrontational divisions, and determined to learn to live with difference. At St Paul’s Cathedral he worked with three women Canons and with them developed a ‘model of difference’, which involved honest theological exploration and agreement on the boundaries of dialogue, and a resolve to defend one another’s position. This set a pattern for addressing difference, although on a small scale.
AC Archbishop Rowan Williams had spoken of the need to ask ‘what it is like to be a woman in Chichester diocese’: he wondered if the past year had led Bishop Martin to any conclusions on this.
Bishop Martin said he would hesitate to answer that himself, but he listened to what women clergy said, and had been struck by the graciousness and generosity of the women he encountered; he was aware of past hurts and the need for healing. He had other concerns too, especially the need to improve pastoral care for all clergy; he hoped to address this in his own Visitation of the Diocese, which was to start this month with Uckfield deanery.
Questions from the Group:
QUESTION 1: Margaret Barr, Eastbourne
How can the Bishop accept a Blessing from a woman priest, but not the Sacrament?
Bishop Martin said that the refusal of sacraments can seem to demean women, but in receiving a blessing from a woman he acknowledges himself as her guest. He recalled celebrating an Anglican Eucharist at Aylesford (RC) Priory, when a nun asked for a blessing ‘for forgiveness’; this, he felt, crossed the ‘inherited divide’ between the Churches, and not receiving sacraments was a signal of that division. He was anxious to emphasise that this rejection was not personal: there was ecclesiastical provision for it in the CofE, and it was permitted as a wish for ‘sacramental assurance’, and as an ‘ecclesial recognition of loyalty’. It is therefore not personal, but is a legitimate position, a sign of the CofE’s persistent continuity with RC and Orthodox Church traditions – and this always entails a degree of doubt.
AC Could the Bishop pursue that ‘two integrities’ argument?
Bishop Martin said that the word ‘integrities’ is unhelpful, because ‘integrity’ implies ‘a single unity’. As a member of the Working Group charged with facilitating Consultations on Women Bishops, and in particular on the question, ‘is there scope for the CofE to sustain these two viewpoints?’, he feels at present that we should be clearer on what is the ‘normative position’ and what the ‘dissenting view’. A further question might include whether there should be a limited time for dissent before the Church decided on a ‘single view’.
QUESTION 2: Revd Dr John Caperon, retired SCP priest in Crowborough,
How is the idea of Sacramental Effectuality to be grasped in practice, say when a man and a woman priest celebrate the Eucharist in adjacent parishes? Can the Bishop explain what is happening, since he accepts the sacrament of one priest but not of the other?
Bishop Martin quoted St Augustine’s argument on Donatism (C4-5 CE): it was impossible to say that ‘nothing happened’ when they celebrated sacraments, since we cannot judge of God’s grace; this was relevant to this question. The tradition of defining certain concepts only negatively (as in the hymn ‘Immortal, Invisible. . ‘) is helpful here, since it acknowledges a ‘shape’ which eludes positive understanding and explanation.
John Caperon (a supplementary question):
If there is any doubt about women’s presidency, would it be right to express preference for a man?
Bishop Martin said that within the present CofE provision there are no doubts about the legitimacy of women’s priesthood; thus no-one should question the real priesthood of women in the CofE.
QUESTION 3: Rosina Elston, East Wittering
In certain parishes, parish ‘tradition’ means that successive opposing incumbents have presented only one position to congregations; so parishioners’ experience is limited, and their preferences are disregarded even though Resolutions have not been passed. She identified 61 ‘F-F’ (Forward in Faith) parishes in this position.
Bishop Martin said that it is not possible to prevent the appointment of a woman priest unless Resolutions have been passed – but the process of appointment is crucial in cases like this.
QUESTION 4: Geraldine Hamilton, Lavant Valley
If a woman incumbent is appointed to a parish and installed by a bishop and archdeacon who do not accept women’s sacraments, can the Bishop offer assurance that their personal view has no effect on the congregation to which she is duly licensed?
Bishop Martin said that within the present CofE provision women’s orders are not in any sense flawed, and that whatever the convictions of those installing them, the incumbent is properly the appointed priest of that parish.
QUESTION 5: Peter Toone, Churchwarden of N Bersted, with Revd Ann Clarke
It is sad that there is argument over this: but what impression is created when people see their Bishop refusing sacraments from priests whom he has installed?
Bishop Martin recalled his visit to a school where a pupil asked why there were no women Bishops – surely there should be space for all? His reply was that we must ‘challenge the world a little’ on this assumption: surely we should not trample on ‘ecclesiastical conscience’? In dealing with questions and practice about God we are using a complex theological inheritance, which is symbolic and reflects much interpretation. We are the recipients of Tradition on this matter – as we are in matters of gay relationships and marriage – and our symbolism is not always adequate to reflect a non-worldly reality.
QUESTION 6: Kirsten Scott, Bognor
How will you foster vocations among young people in parishes where there has never been a woman priest?
Bishop Martin said that it was essential to do this, and he hoped to nurture vocations in a different way from past practice.
QUESTION 7: Revd Alison Bowman, St John the Evangelist, Brighton
It is important that Bishop Martin speaks out and says widely what he has said today; only thus will there be a change of culture in the Diocese.
Bishop Martin felt that the Diocese is ‘hungry for change’ in many ways. After the Chrism Eucharist he had a letter from a woman priest delighted that she could now wear alb and stole for that service: she felt it was ‘like being ordained again’.
QUESTION 8: Kate Baily, Reader, Henfield
Will we have an ordaining Bishop soon?
Bishop Martin said he would in principle say yes; but there must be consultation first. In future he hopes to have two suffragan bishops, one who will ordain women and one who will not, and within the diocesan family he will ordain all to the diaconate, and the Area/Suffragan Bishops will ordain priests, moving across diocesan boundaries so that all can be ordained in their own area. Consultation with the Dioceses Commission began when Bishop Wallace announced his resignation, but its consent for a new appointment had lapsed before he finally left; besides that, a new Area scheme must be agreed and a new job description for the suffragan Bishop approved. He hoped the new scheme would be agreed at the Diocesan Synod meeting on 11th May, and an appointment to Lewes made soon afterwards, probably by the end of the year.
QUESTION 9: Ali Campbell, Diocesan Adviser for work with children and young people and Youth Officer for East Sussex
Do you think you will change your mind on women’s priesthood?
Bishop Martin This is a question of Reception and Discernment. There has never been detailed theological consideration of the debate and how it is understood, and this has been a serious lack; but there are now some encouraging signs: One of these is the ARCIC 3 conversations between Anglicans and RCs, which is now concentrating on the decision-making process on both sides, and whether it is fit for purpose. For the RCs, the stumbling-block has been the CDF (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) which has inhibited their questions on ethics and society; for the CofE, the failure of the Anglican Covenant means that it is hard to see the Church as a coherent entity. ARCIC talks of making ‘a sign of peace with wounded hands’ and of ‘receptive ecumenism’; this may be a way forward here too.
QUESTION 10: Sue Haines
A new Dean will soon be appointed at the Cathedral: could it be a woman?
Bishop Martin said it would be unsafe to rule that out! He works well with Dean Viv Faull, Dean of York, on Women Bishops and other women Deans.
Thanks and farewells:
Alastair Cutting thanked the Bishop for his generosity in responding to questions, and the difference he had already made in the Diocese. The Bishop in turn thanked everyone for their courage and honesty in asking questions, and said it was clear to him that the Chalice Group must continue to exist!
RM (with thanks to Rosina Elston for her helpful notes)
Chichester, 16th April 2013