Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Ecumenical "Plateau"

According to the Beeb, it became inevitable last year, but it's looking like today is the day that the General Synod of the Church of England gives its definitive green-light to the ordination of women bishops.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster has made Rome's feelings known -- a warning which, curiously enough, dominated the headlines in this morning's British dailies.
Speaking at an informal briefing, the cardinal echoed the view of the Vatican by warning that progress towards unity between the Churches had stalled.

Although talks would continue because they were a "road with no exit", ecumenism had reached "a plateau", he said.

There had been "great optimism" following the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s that the Churches could overcome their doctrinal differences, but they had now reached a position they had not foreseen.

They're talking flying bishops
A committee of bishops has spent several months coming up with a compromise, and its this that the synod will consider as a possible way forward.

It would give parishes that could not accept the oversight of a woman bishop the right to opt for a like-minded male alternative. These "flying bishops" (or Provincial Regional Bishops in the Church's terminology) would have wide powers to minister to traditionalist parishes, including ordaining all their clergy.

But the compromise is not enough for many traditionalists in the synod.

They are insisting on the creation of a new division or province of the Church with its own archbishop and male-only clergy. For their part groups representing women priests say they won't countenance an arrangement that leaves them as second class clergy.

The bishops who came up the compromise warned that there was no way forward free of pain and risk, and this week's synod may illustrate how rocky the path ahead will be.
Audio of ecumenical responses to the women bishops proposal can be heard here (Windows Media). And don't forget to check Thinking Anglicans which, as always, is keeping a close eye on everything CofE.