English Anglicans to ordain women as bishops

 — July 9, 20089 juil. 2008

On Monday, the General Synod of the Church of England voted to proceed towards the ordination of women to the episcopate. The vote begins a process that is expected to take three years before a final synodal vote. The earliest ordination would likely be in five years. The fallout from the decision is expected much sooner, both at the Lambeth Conference in late July and in the ecumenical dialogues with Roman Catholics and the Orthodox.

The Church of England is not the first province in the Anglican Communion to make this decision. It does, however, come at a time of tension in the Anglican Communion. The Lambeth Conference meeting later this month will address numerous strains on the Communion, including those arising from the ordination of homosexuals and women, and the blessing of same-sex unions. Women’s ordination has been a controversial issue in the Communion since 1976 when the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church in the USA decided to ordain women as priests. In the intervening years, many of the other provinces in the Communion have followed their path, including the Church of England in 1992. Once women were ordained as priests, questions were immediately asked about whether women would be ordained as bishops as well.

The 1978 Lambeth Conference accepted that there would be some Anglican provinces that would not recognize the priestly ministry of women in Canada and the USA. This imperfect recognition of ministry in other provinces of the Anglican Communion was expected to be limited and short-lived. In 1988, the Lambeth Conference cautioned against ordaining women to the episcopate because the bonds of communion between the provinces would be strained if a province refused to recognize the ministry of women bishops from another province. It should be noted that for many Anglicans the apostolicity of a church is bound to the episcopal office. The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral famously included the historic episcopate in the four essential elements of a church.

Ordination of women as priests and bishops not only strains the bonds of the Anglican Communion. It has also become an issue in the ecumenical dialogues with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches. The 1976 and 1992 decisions to ordain women as priests led to Vatican clarifications of the Catholic position on women’s ordination. The 2003 decision in the USA to consecrate a homosexual bishop led to a temporary cooling of the Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue. In 2006, Cardinal Walter Kasper from the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity was invited to speak to the Church of England’s House of Bishops. He cautioned them that any movement towards the ordination of women as bishops would have disastrous effects on the continuing dialogue. Monday’s decision has also led to a response from Kasper’s office. The following short statement was issued in Tuesday’s Vatican Information Service:

“We have regretfully learned the news of the Church of England vote that paves the way for the introduction of legislation which will lead to the ordaining of women to the episcopacy.
“The Catholic position on the issue has been clearly expressed by Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II. Such a decision signifies a break with the apostolic tradition maintained by all of the Churches since the first millennium and is, therefore, a further obstacle to reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Church of England.
“This decision will have consequences on the future of dialogue, which had up until now borne fruit, as Cardinal Kasper clearly explained when on 5 June 2006 he spoke to all of the bishops of the Church of England at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
“The Cardinal has been invited once again to express the Catholic position at the next Lambeth Conference at the end of July.”

• The Catholic position on the ordination of women is outlined in two documents: Inter Insigniores (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 1976); and, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (Pope John Paul II, 1994).
• See also Responsum ad Dubium: On Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, October 28, 1995). This text was the response to a query about the status of the 1994 teaching by John Paul II on the ordination of women: “Whether the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, which is presented in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to be held definitively, is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith.”
• Cardinal Walter Kasper’s June 5, 2006 address to the Church of England’s House of Bishops is entitled Mission of Bishops in the Mystery of the Church: reflections on the question of ordaining women to episcopal office in the Church of England.
• Nicholas Jesson’s June 10, 2006 article in Ecumenism in Canada entitled Kasper’s line in the sand? provides some further background on the importance of Monday’s Church of England decision.

Posted: July 9, 2008 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=485
Categories: NewsIn this article: Anglican, bishops, Catholic, Church of England, ordination, Vatican, Walter Kasper, women
Transmis : 9 juil. 2008 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=485
Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : Anglican, bishops, Catholic, Church of England, ordination, Vatican, Walter Kasper, women

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