In opening the Fourth Session, the Primate offered his thoughts to the House for reflection.
Archbishop Scott expressed reluctance to summarize the present situation, as he said he would not wish to impose his reactions upon others but felt it necessary to call attention to some points.
He expressed appreciation for the careful work which had been done by the House on the previous day, and thanked the Bishops for their willingness to work diligently and conscientiously. The Primate stressed that, in the comments made, there is no suggestion of blame of persons who had worked on commissions and said that the three negotiating churches had been faithful to their task and had worked with deep commitment and sincerity towards the preparation of the Plan of Union.
On behalf of the House, Archbishop Davis thanked the Primate for his comments.
"That we move into small groups to explore all possibilities of which one will be revision of the Plan of Union." CARRIED
On behalf of the groups, reports were presented by Bishop Nock, Bishop Ford, Bishop Sperry and Bishop Hill.
"In view of the time pressure on General Synod Committees, be it resolved that this House of Bishops recommend to the Organization Committee that it consider the possibility of meetings of General synod less frequently in conjuction with a re-examination of the role of Provincial Synods. CARRIED
The meeting of eight Anglican and eight Roman Catholic Bishops in April 1977 recommended the establishment of a Commission on Marriage to look at the theology of marriage and problems of mixed marriages.
"That we participate in a joint committee as requested and provide five members for the Committee." CARRIED.
Archbishop Davis reported on behalf of the Drafting Committee on Election Procedures, and moved the following amendment:
That this House recommends to the Organization Committee that rotation be ensured in diocesan representation on the National Executive Council by requiring that Dioceses shall be represented by a person of the same order for not more than two consecutive sessions between General Synods." CARRIED
The Motion, as amended, now reads:
That this House give general approval to the procedure for electing National Executive Council at General Synod as amended and request the Organization Committee to consider how this procedure may be implemented at the coming General Synod;
That this House recommend to the Organization Committee that rotation be ensured in diocesan representation on the National Executive Council by requiring that dioceses shall be represented by a person of the same order for no more than two consecutive sessions by General Synod." CARRIED
Note: Amendments relating to the document from the Task Force on Election Procedures "Re: Procedures for Electing NEC at General Synod" should be made in the text of the report as follows:
- Section I (4) shall read: - "In 1971 the Upper and Lower Houses voted themselves out of existence and General synod became a unicameral House."
- Number 9 shall read: - "When one person has been selected by a simple majority of the votes cast, his or her name shall be noted on the chart according to diocese and order, and all other nominations of persons residing in that diocese shall be dropped from the list of nominees."
- Number 14 shall read: - "When a second person has been selected by a simple majority of the votes cast, such a person shall be noted on that chart as before, and all other nominees residing in the same diocese as the one selected shall be dropped from the list of nominees."
A written report was circulated, and Archdeacon Light said that Bishop Snell has suggested the possibility of an event being planned to encompass the Dioceses of Keewatin, Algoma and Moosonee. Archdeacon Light suggested that the Bishops of these Dioceses may wish to discuss this further, and be in touch with him.
The report suggested that the following be asked to serve as an Executive Committee for the College:
The Rt. Rev. G.B. Snell Dr. R. Ivany
The Rev. R.R. Davidson Rev. Canon W. Sewell
The Rev. P. Gibson
(with the Most Rev. W.W. Davis, the Rt. Rev. G.F. Arnold and the Rt. Rev. M. Goodman as corresponding members.)
"That this House accept the suggested Executive for the College of Preachers." CARRIED
"That the motion instructing that the paper prepared by Bishop Valentine be circulated to the public and clergy of our Church be lifted from the Table." CARRIED
It was agreed that the paper should be circulated to the members of this House. (See Appendix A). (cont. Item (XVI) p.11).
The Ordination of Women to the Presbyterate
The Right Reverend Barry Valentine.
It was quite clear to the Agenda Committee that this particular session would be a very significant one. In part this would be because of the subject matter, discerned by some as very close to the core of the faith and order of the church. In part it would be because of the external interest which has been generated; whether or not we discern it as central to the faith, the outside world has been led by the media to think of it as a major contemporary "issue". In part, thirdly, it would be because we can no longer postpone or evade a decision; we have a real-life situation where the current cliche "not to decide is to decide" is really true. We cannot as a House avoid making a decision of some kind. The General Synod has expressed its opinion on the matter in overwhelming fashion and, in effect, referred it to this House. Now the church and the world, in an unusual alliance, wait to hear what we will say and, even more important, do. We must, at least for the moment, put aside questions about the competence of the General Synod in such a matter; by whatever route, the matter is now firmly in our hands. The Agenda committee, therefore, made certain proposals for the session, one of which was that a simple paper should be prepared, attempting to set out some of the possibilities before us.
If the question before us is: "Will the House of Bishops authorize the ordination of women to the presbyterate?", it seems to me that there are fundamentally three possible answers. Those three possible answers are: "No, we reject the idea in principle"; second, "Yes, we accept the principle and we will do it immediately or soon"; and third, "Yes, we accept the principle but we will not do it yet". My short paper is really an attempt to illuminate those three possibilities as we try to choose among them.
"We reject the principle"
It is in considering this possibility that we would review in our minds all of the arguments for and against the ordination of women to the presbyterate which are based on scripture or theology or even the tradition of the church. You are all familiar with them from much study; you also know that it is virtually impossible to convince anybody in either direction by means of them. It is in this section that the "ab initio" theory is found - i.e. that it is simply impossible from the beginning to ordain a woman. It is in this section, too, that you will hear it said that there are not theological grounds for resisting the ordination of women. It was, incidentally, interesting at the recent conference between Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops to hear the Roman Catholic theologians agree vigorously with this point of view. It will be pointed out rightly, though, that the absence of an argument against it does not constitute a compelling argument for it. It would be necessary, therefore, to consider positive theological affirmations about the ordination of women. These would most powerfully inhere in a theology of the Incarnation of our Lord, and of his eternal priestly offering of Himself for the redemption of humanity. The argument would suggest that the transmission of Christ's priesthood it must be vested in the wholeness of humanity. It my personal view it is false to assert that there is not theological argument for the ordination of women. On the contrary, I would tend to think that the theological argument for it is so strong, that the onus of disproof on merely theological grounds rests with the opponents of it.
But of course the arguments for adoption or rejection are not simply in the realm of conceptual theology. They rest much more in a sort of amalgam of scripture, the life of the church, tradition and liturgy, which is known in some more diffuse way as "the faith" of the church. Whether we sing "Faith of our Fathers living still"; or quote "The Solemn Declaration of 1893" which speaks of "the one faith revealed in holy writ and defined in the creeds maintained by the undivided primitive church in the undisputed ecumenical councils", or whether perhaps we refer to an organization called the "Council for the Defence of the Faith", we seem to be referring to a great corpus of belief and practice which has grown up in the church, the body of Christ, and derives from the simple affirmation, "Jesus is Lord". Quite clearly, in this sense, the faith of the church cannot be in some way equated with, for instance, the Nicene Creed. One could hardly suggest that the ministry, the scriptures and one of the dominical sacraments are not part of the Faith of the church; and yet they are not even mentioned as articles of the Creed.
If we are to understand the catholic faith in this not careless but much more diffused sense, it seems to me that two very pertinent considerations emerge. One is what might be called the hierarchy of beliefs. By this I mean to convey that while there are many things which are genuinely of the faith of the church, they cannot all be set, as it were, on a par with one another. As a simple illustration, it would be difficult for an Anglican to suggest that the three-fold ministry was not a legitimate part of the catholic faith as we received it, but it would be equally difficult to suggest that that component of the catholic faith was to rank along side the very divinity of Christ himself. This hierarchy of belief may be paralleled, secondly, with what may be called evolution of belief. We do not hold to a theology of tradition which conceives it as a total deposit once for all handed over. Rather we see a continuing inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the church, whereby in an ongoing dialectic between the church and the contemporary world, God enables us to assimilate ever more fully the total revelation of himself in Jesus Christ. Again, to put it very simply, the catholic faith did not remain unaltered form the second century until the fifth, nor has it remained unaltered from the fifth until the twentieth to the twenty-first.
In relation to the question specifically of the ordination of women to the presbyterate, I would again offer this personal view. While the question of ministry and of the ordination of women are legitimately "of the faith of the church" they are not of such a "rank" within the hierarchy of the faith of the church that I would be prepared to divide the church in order to defend them. Secondly, in terms of the evolution of the faith I think that the ordination of women to the presbyterate is an acceptable and creative development in the ongoing historical process of the church's realisation of the fullness of God's self-revelation in Christ. I am a little encouraged in this view by some remarks by Father Anthony in the Fall Letter of St. Gregory's Abbey in Three Rivers, Michigan. He says in part "We need to remember that his church has made many mistakes through her centuries of life, mistakes always rectified as time goes on, so we can approach this matter with confidence. We cannot finally and irremediably harm the church. Here we are faced with an entirely new and open question. History cannot help us but God has his will in the matter and he wants that will known. Verily I do not need constantly to stand militant guard to protect the church from the heresy she is always in danger of falling into; rather I can trust that church. The decision she makes now may prove finally to be entirely right or entirely wrong, or more probably it will be sifted through in the years to come. We are creators with God; let God's peace reign." at a somewhat more momentous moment in history it was, I suppose, the attitude of Gamalial.
I would like to turn aside to look at a particular form of the argument about continuing in the faith of the church. I refer to the fear that the General Synod has somehow betrayed the solemn Declaration of 1893, which was in a sense its constituting document. You will remember that the Solemn Declaration states at its beginning "We declare this church to be and desire that it shall continue in full communion with the Church of England throughout the world." Since the document is dated 1893 it seems in the highest degree probable that it would look very directly at the statement of the most recent gathering of the bishops of the Church of England throughout the world at the 3rd Lambeth Conference in 1888. This was, of course, the Lambeth Conference which, after receiving a report from the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church meeting in Chicago in 1886 promulgated what has come to be known as the Lambeth Quadrilateral. I would like to quote from it in somewhat greater detail than is usually provided. 1. "The holy scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as containing all things necessary for salvation and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith." 2. "The Apostle's Creed as the baptismal symbol and the Nicene Creed as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith." 3. "The two sacraments ordained by Christ himself, baptism and the supper of the Lord, ministered with the unfailing use of Christ's words of institution and the elements ordained by him." 4. "The historic episcopate locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the unity of his church." The Solemn Declaration's version of that is intriguing. It reads in part 1"...the one faith revealed in holy writ and defined in the creeds as maintained by the undivided primitive church in the undisputed ecumenical councils; 2. "receive the same canonical scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as containing all things necessary for salvation; teach the same word of God; 3. "partake of the same divinely ordered sacraments; 4. "through the ministry of the same apostolic orders." It goes on, interestingly enough, to refer to "the holy and divine spirit who is given to them who believe to guide them into all truth.". Over a quarter of a century later the Lambeth Conference of 1920 included a somewhat modified version of the Quadrilateral and most notably in the 4th component, which now became, "a ministry acknowledged by every part of the church as possessing not only the inward call of the spirit but also the commission of Christ and the authority of the whole body". I wish only to make two simple points out of all this. First, that in the Solemn Declaration of 1893 the Canadian Church linked itself to the living faith of the worldwide entity of the Anglican Communion and secondly that not least in the particular area of our concern, that worldwide entity has subtly modified its own resolution. I would offer the contention that we are genuinely loyal to the Solemn Declaration, if we continue firmly in the living fellowship of the Anglican Communion and not if we indulge in a fundamentalist approach to a historical document.
There is one more area of concern which falls with this section dealing with the matter of principle. I refer to the matter of vocation, and I wonder if we have given sufficient theological weight to what may prove a critical matter. We have long known that, along with ratification by the church, the intention of the ordaining minister and the sacramental action of laying on of hands, there must also be a calling of the person, by God. As a recent example, I quote from the ARCIC Agreement on the Doctrine of the Ministry recently adopted by Christ in the church and through the church." I do not wish in any way to comment on what may or may not have been true in the past history of the church; but it does seem to me to be a fact of fundamental importance in the contemporary situation, upon which we must be prepared both to theologize and to act, that women are receiving such a calling from Christ in the church and through the church. Happily or unhappily it is not so. For whatever reason and under whatever guidance, we find this calling in the very heart of the catholic church, in people who have ben in every way totally involved in the sacramental and scriptural live of the body of Christ, and are known and acknowledged as such by the church; we find women hearing, in many cases almost reluctantly, a clear call from Christ to the presbyterate of his church. We need perhaps to contemplate the possibility that the sign which we seek has, in fact, been given in the very call itself.
The first of the three possibilities is to reject the principle of the ordination of women. I haven't remotely covered al the arguments nor pretended to. It will be clear though that for me the course of rejection in principle is not a possibility but that, on the contrary, affirmation of the ordination of women in principle is not only possible but perhaps mandatory. If that is so, then we can properly, and indeed must, look at the second possibility which says: "Yes in principle and now or soon".
The discussion here will be relatively simple and substantially pragmatic. The theological arguments have their own pressing urgency if they are true at all, but much more urgent are the personal realities. I do not speak so much of the general supporters of the ordination of women to the presbyterate, although for some of them the personal and corporate struggle has been long and demanding. It is natural and intrinsically right that if a competent decision has been taken, implementation should not be long delayed. It could be argued, too, that if it is the will of God for the good of His church and its ministry to His world, then to delay is to reject His will and to debilitate unnecessarily the church's being and ministry. Our chief concern, though, might be for the candidates themselves, for in them would exist not some form of worldly ambition and a merely human sense of frustration, but rather that deeper agony of the soul which knows but cannot fulfil the very call of God.
We would want therefore to discuss such matters as these: Substantial undertakings have been given to consult with or at least graciously inform certain bodies such as other catholic churches in Canada, the Church of England and the Protestant Episcopal Church in the U.S. We would want to work out certain standards and guidelines for relationships for bishops who disagree on this matter. We would have to clarify the relationship as it might affect this matter, between General Synod and at least one of the Provinces. We would perhaps want to develop guidelines for a process to deal with objections when raised at the service of ordination, and with the possibility of individual or parochial or even diocesan secession in the wake of ordination. We would like to develop guidelines perhaps about a common date across the country, guidelines for the form of service, the possibility of both men and women being ordained at the same service--all calculated to reduce the atmosphere of circus and sensationalism.
an argument against immediacy, and a powerful one, has been that to ordain women to the presbyterate now would mean ordaining them to a male stereotype of priesthood, thus preventing a significant examination of the whole question of ministry in the church. I think it must be argued, however, that while this might be so, it does not have to be so. Indeed, it would be possible to advance the argument that the ordination of women to the presbyterate will, in fact, set forward and enrich and exploration of the fullness of ministry. It might even be suggested as a clinching argument for immediacy, that the examination of the whole question of ministry is the highest priority in the church, at this time, and that it will not, in fact, go forward meaningfully, until this particular hurdle is first overcome. Before embracing that possibility of immediate implementation, however, we would want to glance at the third possibility which is: "Yes, in principle but not yet".
I have already adumbrated the argument that we should first examine the whole question of ministry. The implications of such a study are not merely for us as a House of Bishops but for every level of the life and organization of the church. It might even be argued that neither the people of the church, nor the people in the world around the church, are, in fact, ready to give to ordained women the kind of support and acceptance which are fundamental to effective ministry in the church. A curious but, I think, powerful reason for some delay is the very real possibility that the ordination of women to the presbyterate will be seen as the church's version of women's lib. Quite clearly, to me, that is not true, but it would be significantly important that it should not even seem to be so.
The possibility "not yet" must not however rest in this kind of argumentation. It is uncomfortably clear that, if a delay is based in perceptions of the church's or the world's readiness, then that delay might well be unending; indeed, I suspect it is that endless vista of delay and frustration which produces the most powerful dynamic for immediacy.
There are, however, causes for delay which are both specific in kind and foreseeable in term. One such straightforward cause would be the consultations already mentioned. It was my impression in the recent conference with the Roman Catholic bishops, for instance, that any setback in the relationship between our two churches would be caused, not so much by the ordination of women to the presbyterate as such--even though the Pope has declared such a thing to be impossible for the Roman church--as by our going ahead with such action, without prior consultation with other catholic churches. some of them, indeed, went so far as to suggest that only an ecumenical council could make such a decision, though others clearly disagreed. It is not so much a question of our church's competence to make such a decision, although that is, of course, raised by some; it is much more a matter of wisdom, of courtesy and even of charity.
Above all thought, I believe that there should be consultation, in a way that there has not yet been, between ourselves and other churches of the Anglican Communion, and I believe that this can and should be done at Lambeth. In this case, it seems to me to be much more than a matter of wisdom or courtesy or charity, although it might well be all of those things too. It seems to me to be much more than a matter of wisdom or courtesy or charity, although it might well be all of those things too. It seems to me to have something to do with the very essence of our nature as a church and, of course, it relates back to the earlier discussion on the connection between our Solemn Declaration of 1893 and the resolutions of the Lambeth Conference immediately before that. If it can legitimately be argued that true loyalty to the Solemn Declaration consists in allegiance to a living community rather than to a dead document, then that argument must be carried through into this situation. We are fortunate that a Lambeth Conference, for some while in jeopardy, is now substantially assured for 1978. It seems to me a resolution to a very difficult problem, that we can avoid the very real dangers in hasty action, maintain our deep and indeed essential ties with the Anglican Communion, and, at the same time, eliminate once and for all the argument that we have acted unilaterally and incompetently. I think it is entirely possible for us to go to Lambeth with the outspoken commitment of the General Synod behind us, and our own reasoned concern to give us both strength and urgency. I think that we can ask for this matter to be high in the priorities of agenda and we can contribute knowledgeably to discussion and resolution. We can bring, indeed, to the whole Anglican Communion the force of the declared intention of the General Synod and of our own preparedness to participate in the implementation of that.
I may seem to have made it abundantly clear that my personal choice among the three possibilities would be "Yes, in principle but not yet". In fact, though, I would much prefer to remove the open endedness of such a phrase to remove the open endedness of such a phrase as "not yet". I would like to see us formulate a resolution as a house that expresses our collegial commitment--though not necessarily our unanimous agreement--to the resolution of General synod; requests the Archbishop of Canterbury to place this matter on the agenda of the Lambeth Conference and binds us to further collegial preparation and action in the light of the resolutions on the matter from the Lambeth Conference. My final plea would be that we should maintain the collegiality of this house in any decision we make. If we cannot devise and cherish a form of unity, even as it embraces our diversities, there is small hope indeed that the Canadian Church will do so.
In the absence of Bishop Maguire, Bishop Garnsworthy presented a progress report on preparations for Theology '76. During the discussion which followed, it was agreed that it is important for all Bishops to plan to be present at this event. It was noted that Bishop Maguire would be happy to visit diocese, and suggested that Bishops who would like to arrange a time for a visit with him, should write to Bishop Maguire at Church House in order that he may establish his itinerary.
It was noted that costs would be pro-rated across the Canadian Church, and financial assistance could be made available to those dioceses needing help.
It was agreed that delegates should be invited by Bishops of the Dioceses, up to a maximum of 300. Archdeacon Light polled the House for an estimate of the number to be present from each Diocese. Bishop Garnsworthy noted that special pew leaflets will be produced and that articles on Theology '76 are to appear in the Canadian Churchman.
It was agreed that the Committee on Theology '76 be asked to consider specific program responsibilities and concerns for the Bishops.
"That the report written by Bishop Maguire and spoken to by Bishop Garnsworthy be received." CARRIED
On behalf of the House, the Primate thanked Bishop Garnsworthy..