The Church, Women Bishops and Provision – Book Review

The Ven Norman RussellBy Norman Russell

This book (Latimer Trust, 2011) was commissioned by a group of conservative evangelical members of the General Synod of the Church of England with support from prominent traditional catholics who believe that the theological issues surrounding the consecration of women as bishops have not yet been adequately examined. It is hoped that it will inform the debates planned for February and July 2012 on the Draft Measure for the Consecration of Women as Bishops. The book marshals a range of theological arguments, particularly those related to the biblical material at issue. Some of the contributors are opposed on biblical grounds to the principle of the ordination of women as priests and bishops. Others, although generally conservative on their reading of scripture, are not necessarily opposed to women being ordained as priests or consecrated as bishops.

The primary purpose of this timely book is not to rehearse the arguments for and against the ordination of women. Its prime purpose is to convince the majority of Synod members who support the consecration of women that it will also be necessary to make adequate provision in primary legislation for faithful Anglicans who cannot accept the oversight of a woman bishop. From the perspective of traditional catholics and conservative evangelicals, the present draft legislation fails to do this. Synod procedures do not allow further amendments from the floor of the Synod prior to final approval, but it remains open to the House of Bishops, with their particular responsibilities as guardians of doctrine and the unity of the Church, to amend the draft legislation before it returns to the Synod. It is therefore hoped by the authors of this book that their arguments will persuade the House of Bishops to amend the draft legislation before its return to Synod in July.

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