News Analysis

By David W. Virtue

If anyone had any doubt that the spiritual and ecclesiastical trajectory of the Church of England is towards The American Episcopal Church, their doubts were erased this past weekend in York.

The Synod of the Church of England voted to consecrate women to the episcopacy. They also voted summarily not to allow any sort of delegated episcopal pastoral oversight for Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics who in conscience do not want to have a woman bishop reign over them.

Wrote one orthodox Anglican blogger in the UK, “…The absolute refusal to compromise to the smallest degree signifies the rigidity with which women bishops will demand full recognition from everyone in the Church.” He is right.

The Church of England ought to think seriously about women bishops and look hard at what has happened in the American Episcopal Church over the last 20 years.

Women Priests and Bishops

In July 1974, The Episcopal Church in the person of two retired and one resigned bishops irregularly ordained the “Philadelphia Eleven” to the presbyterate. The event caused great consternation among the church hierarchy. Later, the House of Bishops called an emergency meeting, denounced the ordinations and declared them invalid. Charges were filed against the dissident bishops. Attempts were made to prevent the women from serving their priestly ministries.

In 1990, 20 years later, Barbara Harris was ordained Suffragan Bishop of Massachusetts and the die was cast.

It was understood at that time that it would be optional for parishes and dioceses not to have a woman bishop and that no one would be coerced into having a woman bishop preach, confirm or celebrate communion. Consciences would be respected.

In July of 2000 at the 73rd General Convention, Harris successfully called for defeat of an amendment that would have allowed four dissenting bishops to continue denying ordination to women as long as they held office. She said, “The message such an amendment would send to the women of this church and those who support the ordained ministry of women in this church is that once again this house is engaged in a delaying tactic…To engage in further delay says to the women of this church, ‘We do not value your ministry, even though God has called you.’ ”

It was the end of the road for any kind of toleration for the Anglo-Catholic bishops of San Joaquin, Quincy and Ft. Worth. In time, all three dioceses would leave the Episcopal Church. For liberal and revisionist bishops, exclusion became the operative word in the name of a higher inclusion, of course.

Today, there are 17 women bishops ranging from Harris, the first female bishop, to Glasspool, the last. Harris, now 80 and divorced, once described her sexuality as “ambiguous”. Glasspool is an avowed lesbian. Only one, Bishop Geralyn Wolfe of Rhode Island, might be described as orthodox. It was she who deposed a black woman priest who declared she could be both an Episcopal priest and a Muslim at the same time. This took guts, as one doubts that a liberal or revisionist white male bishop would have had the temerity to dump her for fear of the Black Women’s Caucus coming down on top of him for lack of inclusion.

Today, TEC has a woman Presiding Bishop who many think is about the worst of the worst. Not only is she not remotely orthodox in faith and practice, she preaches “another gospel” (Gal.1:7) that is no gospel at all. She believes that social amelioration through Millennium Development Goals will bring about the Kingdom of Heaven on earth where, presumably, she will be made CEO alongside our Lord, if indeed He is necessary at all.

So the big question is this, what have women bishops achieved in The Episcopal Church for the last 20 years?

A review of the dioceses where they have “ministered” is instructive.


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