Letters: Role of women within the Church of England sparks debate

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As an Anglican priest I find it immensely sad that for nearly twenty years a small number of parishes have been deprived of the ministry of women priests.

Maybe for 2,000 years tradition did not recognise the calling of women to be priests, but for much of that time society as a whole was patriarchal and the church is a reflection of its social setting.

The 12 named disciples of Jesus were men, but Scripture makes clear there were more than 12 and women were always a part of that group.

The women supported Jesus in many ways, they were constant even at the crucifixion – and most importantly it was to Mary Magdalene that Jesus made his first resurrection appearance, so that she became known as the apostle to the apostles.

But to today: Canon Hawes claims that he wants the Church of England to be inclusive, yet he has long been a part of the group which does not recognize the authority of his Diocesan bishop and brings in a ‘flying bishop’ when needed in his parishes. That does not seem to recognize inclusiveness.

I am also not sure that the clause that Edenham has renewed does ‘spare the parish from losing too many members’. Recently retired, I live in one of Canon Hawes’ parishes and am aware of people who will not worship in his churches as they fail to understand the stance against women.

As a woman priest I was appointed to a parish and some years later to a benefice of three churches where the previous incumbents had led the parishes in views such as those of Edenham.

Where the clause had been passed it was rescinded, no-one left, the congregations grew and now women priests are as welcome as men in all those parishes.

On a personal level, I find going through the same pain as we went through more than 20 years ago almost unbearable. I am devastated that I cannot, with integrity, worship in my village church and that I feel alienated from the local congregation. This is not an inclusive situation.

And finally I would like to know how my calling by God and that of the women who will become bishops (and there is no further debate – the legislation is in process), which has been fully tested by the church, just like our male colleagues, can be denied by a small group?

The point on which I can agree with Canon Hawes is that I, too, do not have the slightest desire or inclination to be anything but a priest in the Church of England.

The Rev Canon Margaret Venables

Witham on the Hill

I SUPPORT the views expressed in last week’s Mercury by the Anglican priest, the Rev Canon Andrew Hawes, regarding women bishops. November 11, 1992 was a sad day for traditional Anglicans in the Church of England, when the vote by the General Synod to ordain women priests was successful.

It caused division within the Anglican Church, for tradition-alists whose conscience would not allow them to accept the ministry of women priests. As sure as night follows day the question of women bishops would raise its head, that time has now arrived.

I belong to Forward in Faith, a group which caters for C of E traditionalists.

Edenham is an ABC Parish which allows the Parochial Church Council to decline a woman priest. It’s a shame this situation ever came to be, women’s position in the world is paramount.

We are equal but different, equality through diversity. What greater role, never equalled by men than Mary mother of God. Blessed are you among women – or how about the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.

Let’s encourage men to play out their allotted role as fathers, providers, protectors, hunters and husbands.

God bless the family, preserve its unity, for in it lies our strength and peace.

Perfection for women does not mean being like men. This is not just a question of equality but God’s will.

Also the government should not create pulpit politics.

I want to remain with the Anglian Church with its 2,000 years of established tradition, continuity brings security into our lives.

It is sad that many Anglicans are defecting to Rome, because of this eruption.

JEAN JOYCE

Scottlethorpe,

Edenham

I suspect the comments of Andrew Hawes will result in many responses, like this one, written out of shock, astonishment and anger.

Firstly, I am shocked that in the 21st century, a representative of the Anglican church can seriously propose the views attributed in your report.

The Rev Canon Hawes calls the church to “remain inclusive” by excluding women from positions of leadership.

He calls for the church to cater for ‘orthodox beliefs’ by reverting to a hidebound, traditionalist form of chauvinism which is anything but orthodox to most people today.

He is concerned what would happen to parishes such as his if the unthinkable were to happen and a woman bishop were appointed: well, what about some sense of equality and enlightenment, for a start?

Is he seriously telling us that unity in the church and “keeping . . . people together” is a male prerogative and only possible by shutting the doors to those who happen to be female?

I am also astonished that he is blind to the contradictions of his stance: his parish of Edenham has, he says, ‘every shade of opinion’ on this matter. Presumably that’s every shade of male opinion? Women, I assume, must know their place in Edenham and stick to flower-arranging if they don’t want to threaten the very foundations of orthodoxy!

The code of conduct drawn up by the General Synod, to which the article refers, is, he admits, only a code of practice; why, therefore, does he feel so threatened by it?

He says that he doesn’t want the church to be a ‘narrow little club’ and yet a club made in the image of exclusively male, traditionalist members sounds like precisely that.

The final feeling I had when reading the last paragraph of the report was one of anger.

He cites 2,000 years of tradition with men holding positions of leadership in the church as a kind of scriptural given, and yet when I look at the gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry and the growth of the New Testament church this is not what I see.

Instead, I see representations of all areas of society, male and female, being challenged within the prevailing patriarchal social structure. This was the orthodoxy of the time – it is no longer the case.

Finally, as a weekly worshipper within the Anglican church, I would like to reassure your readers that these views do not represent the full spectrum of opinion within the Church of England.

Many of us find them outdated and slightly embarrassing - the Rev Hawes does not speak for some of us.

Martin Caseley

Stirling Road,

Stamford