§ 3.7 p.m.
§ The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern)
My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales that, having been informed of the purport of the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure, Her Majesty has consented to place her prerogative and interest, and His Royal Highness has consented to place his interest in respect of the Duchy of Cornwall, at the disposal of Parliament for the purpose of the Measure.
§ The Archbishop of Canterbury rose to move, That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.
§ The most reverend Primate said: My Lords, your Lordships will be aware that this Measure is one of the most significant pieces of Church legislation ever to be presented to the House. It reaches here following extensive debate and discussion, not only within the Church of England but more widely. Its passage has been accompanied by controversy at virtually every stage, including most recently the unsuccessful action by the Church Society challenging in the courts the General Synod's competence to pass the measure.
§ It is easy, amid all this controversy, to lose sight of the fact that the Measure is simple in its concept and in its intent. It seeks to enable the Church of England to provide by canon for the ordination of women as priests and to establish a number of safeguards for those who 1002 are unhappy about that step. For those of us in the Church who favour the ordination of women to the priesthood, the legislation is also about a simple theological truth—the inclusion of female as well as male in the priesthood as a visible sign of the inclusion of all humanity in the priestly ministry.
§ It is, of course, the differing theological views within the Church about the ordination of women as priests which have made the Measure so controversial. The views are helpfully summarised in the report of the Ecclesiastical Committee on the Measure, which is also before the House today. I wish to pay tribute to the members of that committee, and in particular its distinguished chairman, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Templeman, for the very careful consideration the committee gave to the legislation.
§ As paragraphs 10 to 15 of the committee's report indicate, the theological arguments against the Measure fall broadly under three main heads. First, there is the argument that in the eucharist the priest is called upon to represent Christ in his person, and that only a male priest can adequately do this. For those who favour women priests, this so-called "representational" argument is seriously flawed. It is the humanity of Christ which is important, not his maleness. On this argument, to include women in the priesthood would indicate the inclusiveness of all humanity in the person who celebrates the eucharist.
§ Those who are concerned to uphold the Church's tradition of an all-male priesthood also argue that to depart from that tradition would compromise the apostolic continuity of the priestly ministry. Those of us who favour women priests contend, however, that the tradition of the Church is constantly evolving and changing. The apostolic continuity of the ministry would not be challenged by the ordination of women to the priesthood.
§ A second main group of objections focuses on the interpretation of scripture and in particular a few passages which suggest that headship both in the Church and society is essentially male in character. The chief biblical texts are referred to in paragraph 13 of the Ecclesiastical Committee's report. The majority of us in the Church who have considered the texts carefully have concluded that we do not see in them a bar to the ordination of women as priests. They also have to be set alongside other biblical texts which point towards allowing the God-given gifts of women full exercise in Church and society.
The third main objection is that as a part only of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, the Church of England does not have the authority of itself to make the change proposed. Such a change, it is argued, could be made only by an ecumenical council of the whole Church. This argument is unreal. While, with many others in this House, I regret the divisions in Christendom, they do exist. In a divided Christendom, there is no realistic prospect of such an ecumenical council being held. Article XX of the 39 articles of religion—one of the Church of England's foundational documents—states that,
the Church bath … authority in controversies of faith".
There is in my view no question in law or in practice of the Church of England being unable to proceed independently on this matter, if it so wishes, subject to the will of Parliament.
§ In considering this matter the House of Bishops and the whole Church have had very much in mind the impact which such unilateral action by the Church of England would have on our relations with other Churches. There is no doubt, as my own conversations with Roman Catholic and Orthodox Church leaders have confirmed, that the ordination of women as priests in the Church of England would create a further obstacle to unity with those Churches.
§ Sadly, there are many other barriers, yet these have not prevented ever closer co-operation, understanding and joint action. I want to express my deep appreciation of the way in which Roman Catholic and Orthodox Church leaders have shown their continuing friendship and commitment to the search for unity in spite of this extra difficulty. That search will continue, and I am passionately committed to it. It must also be recognised that if the ordination of women as priests in the Church of England creates a barrier in some directions, it removes a barrier in others; for example in our relations with the Churches of the Lutheran and Reformed traditions, not least our fellow established Church north of the Border.
§ Moreover, as well as considering our relations with other Churches, I must, as head of the Anglican Communion, also have in mind the situation within that communion. The communion now numbers well over 70 million baptised members throughout the world. Many provinces within it have already decided to ordain women as priests. There are now well over 1,000 women priests within the communion. They have brought great richness to the Anglican family. While other provinces continue to adhere to the tradition of an all-male priesthood, the communion has been markedly successful in finding ways of living with a variety of practice among member provinces on this issue.
§ The theological arguments on the matter have been rehearsed at length in the House of Bishops. While a minority of the House is opposed to the legislation, a clear majority of the bishops believe that there is no convincing theological argument against the ordination of women to the priesthood. On the contrary, we believe that the balance of the arguments points strongly in favour of the ordination of women to the priesthood rather than against it.
§ The majority view in the House of Bishops is clearly reflected more widely within the Church. The legislation before the House began its journey through the General Synod more than five years ago. Thirteen years before that, in 1975, the Synod had passed a motion to the effect that it considered that there were no fundamental objections to the ordination of women to the priesthood. Before the present legislation was introduced, the justification for, and shape of, the legislation had been extensively considered by the House of Bishops in two separate reports and by the General Synod itself, In accordance with the General Synod's constitution, the Measure now before the House was referred—before it could be considered for 1004 final approval by the Synod—to every diocese in the Church, and was discussed widely in deaneries and parishes. All but six of the 44 diocesan synods voted in favour of the Measure. Finally, it was approved last November by majorities of over two-thirds in each of the three Houses (bishops, clergy and laity) of the General Synod.
§ Since the legislation was given final approval by the General Synod, it has been thoroughly considered by the Ecclesiastical Committee, which heard oral evidence on four separate occasions and also held a joint conference with the legislative committee of the General Synod. Quite unusually, the Ecclesiastical Committee heard evidence not only from representative supporters of the legislation but from some of the opponents in the General Synod as well. By a majority, the committee concluded that the legislation was expedient.
§ The legislation before the House reflects the lengthy and prayerful consideration which has been given at all stages of the matter. The nub of the Measure is in Clause 1(1), which makes it lawful for the General Synod to provide by canon for enabling a woman to be ordained to the office of priest so long as she meets other criteria for such ordination. Clause 1(2) makes it clear that the measure does not open the way for women to become bishops.
§ The remainder of the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure provides a comprehensive set of safeguards designed to ensure that those who are opposed to the ordination of women as priests are not asked to act contrary to their conscience. These are carefully described in the Ecclesiastical Committee's report. I shall not weary the House by describing them in detail now.
§ Much attention has been focused on Clause 2 of the Measure which provides that a diocesan bishop, who is in office when the canon enabling women to be ordained priest is promulged, may make one or more of three declarations. By making all three of these declarations, a diocesan bishop could in effect exclude women priests from his diocese. It is not, however, open to a bishop appointed after the canon authorising women priests is promulged to make any of these declarations.
§ It was strongly argued in evidence to the Ecclesiastical Committee that Clause 2 should either be withdrawn or extended to cover future diocesan bishops. Left as it is, the argument went, priests opposed to the legislation would be unlikely to accept senior office in future. To make such an extension, however, would in effect be to legislate for the continued geographical separation of the Church of England into areas where women priests may operate and areas where they may not. The provision restricting Clause 2 to bishops in office when the canon comes into effect was included at the request of the majority of the House of Bishops in order to maintain the unity and collegiality of the episcopate. Moreover, recent appointments of bishops show that those who opposed the legislation are among those who are selected for senior posts and accept them.
§ The potential significance of Clause 2 has substantially lessened as a result of the pastoral arrangements which the House of Bishops wishes to put in place once the canon is promulged. These 1005 arrangements are set out in the two Manchester statements of the House, which are reproduced at pages 21 to 32 of the Ecclesiastical Committee's report. I pay tribute to my fellow bishops for the unanimity they have shown in developing these arrangements and particularly the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York for his tireless work on the matter.
§ The arrangements the House envisages are designed to ensure that appropriate pastoral episcopal care is provided for those in favour and those opposed to the legislation, without undermining the authority of the diocesan bishop. Our intention is to give continued space within the Church of England to those of differing views on this subject. The arrangements are embodied in an Act of Synod, which the General Synod will be invited to approve when it meets in London next week. An Act of Synod has no legally enforceable quality but is regarded as morally binding on the Church. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Holderness, to my Motion reflects the view of those who argue that the provisions of the Act of Synod should be embodied in a complementary measure so as to entrench them in law.
§ This matter was argued thoroughly before the Ecclesiastical Committee and the committee's conclusions, by a majority, are set out in paragraphs 42 to 44 of its report. I respectfully agree with those conclusions. First, no change in the law is actually required to allow the House of Bishops to make the arrangements it seeks to make. Secondly, it is important that, as soon as the canon enabling women to be ordained priest is promulged, pastoral arrangements should be in place which carry the firm commitment of the Church. An Act of Synod expresses such commitment and carries, as I said, compelling moral authority.
§ Thirdly, an Act of Synod has the great advantage that it can be agreed without an elaborate process of diocesan consultation. It will therefore provide necessary safeguards for those concerned about the legislation some two years sooner than if the General Synod were to embark on a supplementary measure.
§ A further consideration, as the Ecclesiastical Committee notes, must be whether there would be the necessary majorities in the Synod for a supplementary measure. That could certainly not be taken for granted.
I believe that the request in the noble Lord's amendment is the more worthy of rejection because it assumes that legislation is the answer to what is in essence a pastoral problem which needs to be treated flexibly. I am at one with the conclusion in paragraph 40 of the Ecclesiastical Committee's report that,
These are ultimately matters which will depend on the good will of members of the Church at all levels".
Having examined the main arguments concerning the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure, I turn now briefly to the accompanying financial provisions Measure, which is intended to ensure that those who resign from the service of the Church by reason of their opposition to the ordination of women as priests do not suffer financial hardship. It is examined by the Ecclesiastical Committee at pages 35 to 37 of its report.
The financial provisions measure is integrally linked with the main measure; indeed, the main measure cannot come into effect unless it too is enacted.
§ It is possible to criticise the financial provisions measure on the grounds either that it is mean or that it is over-generous. Both charges have, predictably, been levelled against it, but I believe that we have got it right. The levels of provision compare well with those in secular life.
§ The financial provisions measure received majorities on final approval in the General Synod of 100 per cent. in the House of Bishops, 97 per cent. in the House of Clergy and 95 per cent. in the House of Laity. I have no doubt either of our will or our capacity to live up to the commitment which it represents.
§ I hope that the House will feel that the Church of England deserves some credit for the practical and pastoral arrangements, which alone, I want to say, among members of the Anglican Communion, it has made on this matter.
§ I have inevitably dwelt today on the concerns of those who are opposed to the legislation before the House. I want in closing to remind the House of the much greater number who welcome it. A resolution of this matter is important for the unity and the mission of the Church; unity, because for many years now we have struggled over this issue. The legislation before us offers the best way of dealing with a contentious subject and moving forward together.
§ During the debate which follows, we may expect to hear about the divisive effect of the legislation on the Church of England. I ask the House to consider how much more divisive it would be if we were to decline to approve legislation passed with such substantial majorities in the General Synod after such lengthy and extensive debate in the Church, and in the face of the clear finding by the majority of members of the Ecclesiastical Committee that the legislation is expedient, and following such a convincing vote in its favour in another place last Friday.
§ I conclude on the note of mission. Important though the legislation is, our prolonged concern with it has detracted from the task of making the Christian life relevant for all in this land and from the Church's ministry at all levels in our society. The Church now longs to concentrate on promoting the Gospel of Christ to a society in great need. We have well over 1,000 women deacons who are already offering their skills and gifts to the service of Christ: many of them see the legislation as offering the fulfilment of their ministry. I am confident that they will enrich the priestly ministry of our Church. I admire their patience and their humility. They have never given up hope and neither have many of us who have prayed for this moment to come. But beyond them are all those people, both within our national Church and on its fringes, who look to this change as a reassurance that the Church can minister to society in a fully relevant and effective way in the years and days to come. We need to resolve this matter so that the Church can get on with its true commission.1007
§ I ask the House to support the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper, and to decline to approve the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Holderness. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.—(The Archbishop of Canterbury.)
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Lord Holderness rose to move, as an amendment to the Motion, to leave out all the words after ("House") and insert ("declines to give approval to the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure in advance of the General Synod's decision on the proposed Act of Synod and in the absence of any undertaking that a complementary measure will subsequently be introduced to safeguard the interests of those who hold traditional beliefs, recognising the historic duty of Parliament to protect the rights of conscience of every citizen and its special obligation to safeguard the historic formularies and doctrinal heritage of the Church of England.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope that I can at once banish from the mind of the most reverend Primate any vestige of anxiety that the purpose of my amendment is to delay significantly the progress of this Measure. I believe that he will readily agree that the first part of the amendment would delay approval by about 10 days, only until the General Synod has been given an opportunity to pronounce upon the Act of Synod which will be placed before it.
§ The second part of the amendment involves no delay whatever. It merely asks for a further Measure, complementary to that which we are now discussing. Many of your Lordships will be eagerly awaiting the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London and the opportunity to share the wisdom with which he has already been dealing with this matter.
§ Before speaking to my amendment, I hope that I may be forgiven for going back a few months and trying to restate some of the anxieties widely felt since the General Synod approved the Measure that we are now discussing. That is almost a year ago. I do not intend to rehearse in detail the objections of those who oppose the Measure. Many of them are well within the field of theology on which, although I am deeply interested in it, 1 am certainly not competent to pronounce. On matters of more simple mathematics, more within the compass of my intellectual equipment, I managed to grasp rather more firmly the argument of those who supported the Measure in pointing to the overwhelming majority by which it was approved by the General Synod. They, and I think the most reverend Primate this afternoon, could also claim the strong probability, but not, I think they would admit, the absolute certainty, that the decision represented the will of the Church of England.
§ On the more important claim that the decision either accords with, or runs counter to, the will of God, both supporters and opponents of the Measure must tread and speak with great care. Its supporters cannot argue with certainty and without arrogance that any who oppose it 1008 are deliberately frustrating the divine will, any more than its opponents can suggest, without appearing utterly ridiculous, that the guidance of the Holy Spirit, undoubtedly sought by members of the General Synod was, at that time, in some way defective. We cannot know. Precisely because of that uncertainty, all are justified in urging tolerance and equal treatment for both opinions.
§ If I may describe the difficulty of the Measure's, opponents in a most untheological way, it appears that the support for the ordination of women to the, priesthood has become the new orthodoxy; and to hold opinions critical of such ordination is beginning to be considered non-U. Certainly, opponents of the Measure, rightly or wrongly (I am afraid that I think rightly) feel that they are engaged upon a playing field that is far from level. They find it, for instance, hard to believe that. men of undoubted ability, and (more importantly) those with outstanding qualities of mind and spirit, will be readily chosen for consecration as bishops if they are opposed to what they consider the new orthodoxy.
§ It is painful to say, but I see around many signs of deep distress, deep distrust, grave anxiety, and an empty loneliness among those who feel that they are being pushed by this Measure into a Church where many of the familiar landmarks are about to disappear. Whether or not those fears are justified, seems to me irrelevant. Their importance, and their claim to continued attention, exists just because they are undoubtedly real. Unless they are met satisfactorily, they are certain to threaten the continued unity of the Church.
Now, in relation to those fears, the two gatherings of the House of Bishops earlier this year, which the most reverend Primate mentioned, and, in particular, the statement entitled Bonds of Peace, produced conclusions of great significance. Paragraph 3 of Bonds of Peace, which is reproduced on page 24 of the Ecclesiastical Committee's report began:
We now enter a process in which it is desirable that both those in favour and those opposed should be recognised as holding legitimate positions while the whole Church seeks to come to a common mind".
The following paragraph on the same page continued likewise:
Those who for a variety of reasons cannot conscientiously accept that women may be ordained as priests will continue to hold a legitimate and recognised position within the Church of England".
Statements like those brought undoubted comfort to many who had begun to feel excluded from the new orthodoxy. Bonds of Peace went on to add a number of provisions to ease the difficulty of those who preferred the continuance of the existing priesthood. In particular, it provided for the nomination, both at diocesan and provincial levels, of bishops with a special charge to those in need of the spiritual comfort which they will be able to bring.
Paragraph 19, near the end of Bonds of Peace, promised to incorporate those and other arrangements in a draft Act of Synod to be brought before General Synod this very month. That draft Act would confirm:
the House of Bishops' intention that there should be no discrimination between candidates, either for ordination or for
appointment to senior office in the Church of England, on the ground of their views about the ordination of women to the priesthood".
Both the preamble and the first clause of the draft Act return to that theme of non-discrimination.
§ In the light of all that, I suspect that some noble Lords and, I should include, as many of them are going to speak, noble Baronesses, may well be asking: what doubts can remain? Others, sadly, may well accord with my view that those doubts still remain painfully real. The lack of trust has not been dispelled, and is now heightened (or deepened) by the presentation of this Motion for approval before the General Synod has had any opportunity to consider the draft Act. We cannot at present tell how it will be received. Threatening noises from certain quarters suggest that it will meet opposition, but I hope that the authority of the most reverend Primates and the whole House of Bishops will secure its approval. Even then, for some, the anxieties will remain.
§ As the most reverend Primate said, during discussions before the Ecclesiastical Committee it became clear that no Act of Synod could carry an authority comparable to that of the present Measure. I became convinced that in any conflict between an Act of Synod—this one is not yet tested and has still to be approved—and, on the other hand, the measure we are now considering, the Measure must prevail. For that reason, I begged that any Act of Synod could be succeeded by a Measure which would carry equal authority. Nor need such a Measure, if it were promised, delay for a single day the approval of the present Measure; but an undertaking to introduce it at some time in the near future will play a significant part in the restoration of confidence.
§ I hope that I have said enough—I suspect that many noble Lords might say "more than enough"—to make clear to your Lordships my own conclusions in this matter. I believe that women will shortly be ordained to the priesthood, in accordance with last year's decision by the General Synod. But grave doubts remain about the reality of the two integrities—they are the supporters and the opponents—and their future ability to live in harmony as members of one Church.
§ Moreover, those doubts must be increased by the introduction of the Motion before the General Synod has given any consideration to the draft Act. I fear that even the approval of such an Act of Synod will leave a residue of anxiety which the promise of a later complementary Measure would do much to remove.
§ The attendance of many noble Lords and the intention of a large number to take part in the debate shows that they care deeply about this issue. During the past 450 years the Church of England has been subject to attacks from without and to frequent strains and divisions from within. Almost miraculously, under the Tudors and Stuarts and for different reasons in subsequent centuries, it has managed to preserve its unity. In that preservation of unity Parliament and the Sovereign have played a part of inestimable value. I hope and pray that when, in a few years time, Parliament 1010 looks back it will find no cause to conclude that the decisions it made in 1993 did anything to damage that precious unity. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That as an amendment to the Motion, to leave out all the words after ("House") and insert ("declines to give approval to the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure in advance of the General Synod's decision on the proposed Act of Synod and in the absence of any undertaking that a complementary measure will subsequently be introduced to safeguard the interests of those who hold traditional beliefs, recognising the historic duty of Parliament to protect the rights of conscience of every citizen and its special obligation to safeguard the historic formularies and doctrinal heritage of the Church of England.").—(Lord Holderness.)
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ Baroness Nicol
My Lords, I must first make it clear that although I speak from the Dispatch Box the views that I express are my own. I do not speak for my colleagues; they will speak for themselves on this matter of conscience.
I too wish to pay tribute to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Templeman, for the way in which he chaired the committee. As the first member of the Ecclesiastical Committee to speak, it is right that I should do so. The noble and learned Lord was called upon to perform small miracles of tact and diplomacy because, as your Lordships are aware, feelings on the subject ran high. He performed his duties to the satisfaction of us all.
I do not propose to go over the theological arguments. For 20 years the best theological brains in the Church have wrestled with the problem and it is unlikely that your Lordships and I can add anything to that debate today. I wish to deal with other issues that are raised.
The most reverend Primate gave the House details of the support for the Measure in the Synod and in the country. The committee received an enormous number of letters during its deliberations. Of the hundreds of letters received, some opposed the Measure but many more supported it. Admittedly some were syndicated, but one would expect that. However, hundreds of letters came from individuals and it was difficult not to be impressed by them. The committee was left in no doubt about the strength of feeling of those opposed to the Measure. It met on 11 occasions and on each there was a full discussion, if I may put it that way. Opposition to the Measure was countrywide but there was special concentration in London. Inevitably that has attracted more media attention because journalists have a tendency to concentrate on the capital. My impression, which is based on the many letters and personal discussions, is that support for the Measure is greater outside London. That is so notably, and perhaps surprisingly, in rural areas. I do not wish to belittle the opposition in the country at large but it is greater in London than elsewhere.
We are warned by opponents that approval of the Measure will seriously damage the Church of England and that many clergy and lay members will feel obliged to leave. That would be a great tragedy and I hope that 1011 it will not be so. But an even greater number will be hurt and may leave if the Measure is not passed. They include many men as well as women. Having come so far along the road their disappointment will be great. There is no easy solution; whatever the outcome, someone will be hurt and there will be pain for many.
The Measure is a little more complicated than it might have been. However, it reflects the strenuous efforts which have been made by the Church to ease the situation of those who do not agree with the decision. It makes it possible for them to remain in the Church or to leave with dignity if that is their wish. I sympathise with the noble Lord, Lord Holderness, who made a most moving speech. However, if we cannot have trust in members of the Church, in whom can we have trust? I believe that we should go ahead with the Measure and not wait yet again for a decision.
Clause 1(2) excludes the possibility of women bishops. Many of my colleagues, noble Lords and members of the public believe that to be unjust. However, if the women concerned are prepared to accept that limitation. I do not believe that we should oppose it, provided that it is not unlawful—and I believe that it is not unlawful.
The Church cannot cut itself off from changes in the world outside. It is affected by them and in turn it influences them. It is a living entity responsive to and responsible for society as a whole. It cannot be, nor should it wish to be, preserved for ever at any one stage of its development. It is not an intellectual exercised divorced from the realities of its membership.
No churchman or churchwoman would argue that responsibilities stop at the church door. The role of women in our society has changed and developed. They have emerged as equal partners in most areas of our national life. They bring to what they do a special quality which is accepted as different from, but no less valuable than, the contribution made by men. That is particularly true as regards Church activities. I have received hundreds of letters from parishioners and from male members of the clergy who appreciate that special value and wish to see it given full expression.
For the women who are waiting to have their vocation tested this has been a long and trying time. In most cases they have waited with patience and tolerance despite the increasing difference between their lot and that of women outside the Church. In a moving speech made to Synod in 1987, Sister Carol asked:Do these developments stop at the church door? Am I called to walk tall in society and to walk small in the church?".It is now 1993 and she is still waiting for an answer. Surely the time has come to give her a positive answer.
I agree with the summing up of the most reverend Primate. With so many problems in the United Kingdom to which the Church needs to give its attention, surely the time has come to end this long debate. The Church has given its view and I beg your Lordships to support the Measure and not to delay any further.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, I echo the tribute of the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, to the chairman of the Ecclesiastical Committee, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Templeman. We were not an easy crew to captain and he managed it with quite remarkable skill. I suspect that many a trial in which he had to sit in judgment was far easier than dealing with the Ecclesiastical Committee. Without his skill I believe that we certainly should not have come to the satisfactory conclusion which we finally reached.
I am most certainly no theologian, but I am satisfied to be told by many who are that there are no theological reasons why women should not be priests. As the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, said, we received many letters. I believe that I received about 1,000 letters: 800 were in favour and 200 were against. Among those letters, I received one from a eminent Roman Catholic theologian who wrote to say that, if it is any comfort to us, in his view there is no reason why women should riot be members of the priesthood. Therefore, let us riot continue that particular argument.
Surely the point is that the Synod is overwhelmingly in favour—after all, there must be a two-thirds majority, and we all know that it is not easy to achieve such a majority in all three Houses—of the proposal that women should be ordained priests. That being so, surely it is not for us to gainsay the will of the Synod. I know that, as it is an established Church, a Measure of this kind from the Synod must be passed by Parliament. But surely Parliament must recognise that the Synod arrived at its conclusion only after a process of participation and democratic involvement which makes the election of Members of the House of Commons, let alone the way in which your Lordships' House is constituted, a positive mockery of democracy. I am quite certain that the Synod would not in the least wish to continue that arduous process.
The Synod—the proper voice of the Church of England—has spoken. That should be sufficient for the two Houses of Parliament to accept that that is what should be done. Of course there are parts of the Measure before us which do not meet with complete approval. There are those who feel—and I am one of them—that some of the consolations offered to those who cannot accept the ordination of women have gone a little too far. I find it difficult to accept that it is set down that there should not be women bishops. However, I suspect that in the way in which we do these things in this country—we have a great preference for salami tactics; perhaps not a very appropriate metaphor on this occasion—before very long we shall find that a way has been devised in which women can become bishops.
It also seems to some of us that some of the provisions made for those who cannot accept the ordination of women have been perhaps a trifle over-generous. But I do not go along with those who say that those compromises should be rejected. I am politician enough to recognise that all progress is made by compromise, and that if you are not prepared to compromise you are in fact saying, "What I say is 100 per cent. right and you must put up with the 1013 consequences". If you do not like it, you call it compromise; if you do, you call it give and take. I am prepared to give and take as regards this Measure in order to get it through and to get it through quickly.
There should be no further delaying tactics of any kind. I do not say that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Holderness, is a delaying tactic in any pejorative sense because it is obviously most sincerely put forward. But from this House and from this Parliament should go forth today a clear statement that there is to be no more delay and that women are now to be accepted into the priesthood.
Let us remember those women who have waited so very long and so very patiently in order to be ordained. It is not a calling that I have ever experienced and I should not have been a suitable candidate for it, but I have friends who have long wanted to be members of the priesthood. We have heard a great deal about the pain of those members of the Church who do not like the change. But let us not forget the pain of the women who have waited so long, serving in a junior capacity because they have been denied full priesthood.
Important though the concerns and interests of those who object are, in my view there is an even stronger reason why we should go ahead, and go ahead now, with this Measure. Whatever may be the political views of Members of your Lordships' House, no one can deny that religion is an enormously powerful force in the world today, for evil as well as for good. It is probably the most powerful force that exists internationally, with the collapse of communism, which was, after all, in a sense a perverse form of religion. It is not good enough to treat religion as a matter of marginal importance. You may accept or reject particular doctrines but you cannot deny the power that religion has to move people, often in a totally undesirable direction. That being so, it is very important that people who are capable of serving and have the desire to serve religion in the best possible way should be enabled so to do.
If you look at what has been going on in the Church of England from outside—not as a member of this Church, or, indeed, any other—surely it must seem that the priorities of the Church, and therefore of the religion for which it stands, are curiously distorted if it can spend so much time, energy and money on the question of the ordination of women which to a great many people must seem an obvious step in the right direction. Such a situation cannot be good for the Church of England and it cannot be good for religion. It cannot be good for the battle against false religion and its evil consequences that that should continue. In the Church of England, as in all churches, we need as many people as possible of devotion, intelligence and determination to strengthen its work and to meet the challenges of the false religions. There are women waiting who will do just that.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of London
My Lords, it is with considerable hesitation and indeed trepidation that I rise to speak in this debate for I am conscious of the convention of your Lordships' House with regard to maiden speeches. However, I have been emboldened in 1014 my resolve to speak by my colleagues on these Benches and others in your Lordships' House who have encouraged me so to do.
I do so because I believe that the Measure before us is unsatisfactory in its present form and I wish to indicate how I believe it should be modified in the longer term interests both of those who are in favour of the ordination of women and of those who are opposed to it.
First, I should like to make a general comment on the nature of the debate. A question frequently put to me is, "If a woman can be queen or prime minister, why not priest, bishop or archbishop?" That seems a perfectly reasonable way in which to put the matter if the view is taken that the work and office of a priest in the Church of God is of the same order. But that is the question which takes us to the very heart of this debate; and the question which some would argue takes us to the very heart of our faith. Of course, natural justice demands that equal opportunities should be open to women, and I wholeheartedly support that as indeed I do the full-time ministry of women in the Church. I believe very strongly that we need the gifts and graces which women bring to the Church's public ministry. However, I have to say that I am not yet convinced, on the basis of scripture, the background and tradition of the Church's life and ministry, that the matter is yet fully resolved in favour of ordaining women. Therefore, I consider that it remains a disputed question theologically.
It has to be admitted that opinion continues to be divided—and considerably divided—in our Church. The General Synod may have voted as it did last November, but the fact is that in the parishes and deaneries of the Church of England nationwide the voting figures are considerably less clear about the two-thirds majority. Indeed, taking account of the overall voting, from the 731 deanery synods where all beneficed and licensed clergy are members and where every parish in the land is represented by at least two members, the legislation failed to secure the two-thirds majority needed.
It was precisely in order to address the divided nature of the Church that the legislation emerged, not simply as a one-clause Measure. It is to the legislative package that I should now like to turn. I indicated in my speech in the General Synod in November last that I was certain that the legislation had not got it right, and I am even more convinced now that that is so.
I refer particularly to Clause 2, concerning the provisions for bishops who are opposed and in office when the Measure becomes law. Let us note the fact that it applies only to bishops in office and not to any successor in the See. Basically, the bishop has the right to make the diocese a "no-go" area to women so ordained under the Canon. Is it really in the best interests of the peace and well-being of our Church that a diocese such as London with 60 or so ordained women deacons should suddenly become a "no-go" area? Does it really further the cause of the very rights and justice on which it is argued that women should be ordained?
Certainly, the Diocese of London, in the Diocesan Synod, rejected the legislation in all three Houses. So it 1015 could be argued that the diocesan bishop would be on very strong grounds indeed to invoke all three declarations. But then such declarations are time-capped. Yes, any future Bishop of London may refrain from ordaining women. He is not free further to extend the declarations made by his predecessor.
I have to say that it is on that one clause alone that the most contentious letters of my whole ministry have been received, both from those fervently in favour—uttering dire threats about making life impossible for the Bishop of London if he even dares to contemplate the possibility of making the declarations of Clause 2—and, equally, from those against who would, similarly, make life impossible for the bishop if he did not so act.
I have consistently maintained throughout the debate that Clause 2 is inappropriate and unworkable. If we are now being told that really no one is going to use it, then why is it still before the House as part of the Measure?
However, perhaps I may presume to echo the scriptures in St. Paul's hymn to charity: I wish now to put to you a better way. This better way is, I believe, set out in the arrangements of the London Plan—the proposals which I put before the Diocese of London at Pentecost earlier this year, and which set out a clear framework which recognises and respects the integrity both of those who are in favour of the ordination of women and those who are opposed. Indeed, similar though not exactly parallel proposals are contained in the draft Act of Synod which is to be put before the forthcoming meeting of the General Synod next week and which is endorsed, as we have heard, by the whole House of Bishops, though there is no guarantee that the Synod will necessarily endorse the Act.
I believe that the reason that the House of Bishops has spent so much time and energy in further discussion and planning after the decision of 11th November last year is because it is considered by a number of us that the legislation before us is not in the longer-term interests of our Church. It is my view that Clause 2 should be deleted and that some reference to the Act of Synod should be incorporated as part of the Measure.
In so doing, I believe that the Church of England would have an altogether more optimistic future recognising and respecting both those who are in favour and those who are opposed and this—not an attempt at facing both ways, nor indeed in any way the creation of two Churches in one as has been suggested by some; but rather an attempt both to ensure and to secure the continuing diversity which has long been a significant and important mark of this Church. Thus it is my fervent hope that the Act of Synod will secure the necessary majority in the forthcoming General Synod.
There is another clause which causes me considerable difficulty and it is one which has already been referred to in today's debate. I refer to the second part of Clause 1 which states:Nothing in this Measure shall make it lawful for a woman to be consecrated to the office of Bishop".Already colleagues on these Benches and, indeed, women themselves, are speaking of women bishops within a few years; and, in my view, rightly so—certainly within the next 10 years if women are now to be ordained to the work and office of a priest in the 1016 Church of God. For what view of ordained ministry is it which actually makes a legal separation between bishop and priest? That is quite contrary to the view expressed in the Ordinal of The Book of Common Prayer and the practice of our Church since its inception—indeed, in the practice of the Church universal since the very origins of the ministry itself. It simply does not add up theologically, nor does it add up practically. It is going to happen. We shall have women bishops. Why retain the clause?
I have felt constrained to set my views before the House not, I hope, in any negative or obstructive kind of way, but as one who has been a faithful, loyal and lifelong member of the Church of England and who yearns amidst our present unhappy divisions to do all in his power to fulfil the aspirations of the prayer prayed daily in this very Chamber; namely, to ensure the: uniting and knitting together of the heads of all persons in true Christian love and charity. Such, I believe, is a key task of the work and office of a bishop in the Church of God at this time and one which I shall continue to do all in my power to pursue both in my diocese and for the sake of ensuring that valued diversity of the past and present into the future, of our beloved Church of England.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Lord Runcie
My Lords, I am delighted to be the first speaker to congratulate the right reverend Prelate on his excellent maiden speech. Those of us on these Benches who constantly ask for a stronger lead from the Bishops' Benches will be encouraged by his wise and temperate words. We hope to hear him often on less ecclesiastically exciting days.
Throughout history commentators have employed military terms to describe religious controversy. We may regret it, but battles, campaigns, strategy and tactics are the historians' modes of reference for the development of doctrine and Church practice from the fisticuffs of the Council of Nicea onwards. In the present phase of today's hostilities, I suppose that I figure as one of the walking wounded; someone now far behind the lines, who is in a position to write letters of encouragement to those still on active service in a war drawing to its close. As suits one speaking from the security of the Cross Benches, I am in a position to encourage those on both sides or on neither.
My struggle with the issue has been as much personal as public. I have wrestled with it for many years. At first, I was psychologically uncomfortable with the idea of women priests. I then had the feeling that I was not at all sure that the Anglican Communion, let alone the Church of England, had the right to take such a step independent of the other parts of Catholic Christendom. In that way, I reveal myself as a traditionalist, both temperamentally and rationally. What is more, all my traditionalism is Anglican, bound together by the threefold cord of Prayer Book, King James Bible and poets of the English faith—a cord not easily broken.
However, I grow alarmed when I see the term "traditionalist" manipulated for the propaganda ends of one side of the debate. In spite of the oft stated claims of some opponents of the Measure, it is possible and 1017 even necessary for traditionalists to allow development within Christian doctrine and practice. Old truth needs to be expressed in new ways so that it may convey its deepest, most significant meaning. John Henry Newman was eloquent on that point.
The real duty of the traditionalist is not to oppose all change but to determine the criteria for legitimate development. Thus it is not appropriate, however much our initial feelings and our gut reactions sway us, to class all proposed developments together. The ultimate recognition of the ordination of women as an appropriate development does not entail any series of further developments. The suggestion that it does is a failure of logic used as a tactic of terror.
Incidentally, I was pleased with the temperate manner in which the amendment was moved today. The mover did not fall into an error committed by some Members of another place when they debated the matter on Friday. What is the essence of priesthood? It is the vocation of representing God to the human community and the human community to God. In our English tradition there is a link between the doctrine of the incarnation (God in human form) and the parish priest's commitment to a particular place and a particular community. The parson is a special person ordained to pray and celebrate the eucharist on behalf of all his parishioners, churchgoers or not. So the priest is there for everyone and represents the God who is there for everyone.
In days when exclusively male leadership has been abandoned in other walks of life, it seems undeniable that this representative role of the priest may actually be weakened by a solely male priesthood. The admission of women would be an enlargement and opening up of priesthood rather than its overturning. When men are selected for priesthood we look for certain qualities. We look first for faith, and with it faithfulness, stickability and the capacity to go on when the going gets tough. We look for evidence of a life of prayer because prayer is required of a priest, both to sustain the loneliness of the job and as a sign of the way he is pointing others. We look for commitment to people, both to challenge and to console the strong and the weak, the gifted and the deprived. We look for a willingness to live sacrificially: to choose the less attractive job; to make do with a not very appealing income; and to work long hours without obvious reward. We look for leaders who can inspire without domineering, whose model is that of the Good Shepherd rather than the successful graduate of the management training school.
I believe there are many women who possess these priestly qualities and whose ability to bring men and women to God is tempered by the kind of tough gentleness which nourishes families and challenges the overbearing. Neither authoritarian nor submissive, these women are bringing new life and integrity to the communities in which they work. In my travels to other parts of the world, where women are ordained as priests, I have seen this for myself. In their ministry in partnership with men, they are enabling those men to discover new gifts within themselves.
1018 A fortnight ago in San Francisco I visited the impressive cathedral support programme for individuals and families living amid the fears, shame, anger and abandonment of AIDS. The co-ordination of this interactive programme, which doctors, nurses, teachers, bereavement counsellors, men and women, share together, had as its leader a woman priest. When she stood at the altar, in the traditional Catholic vestments, leading us in the eucharist I found it impossible to deny her priesthood.
The ordination of women may have quite the opposite effect to that forecast by opponents. It may in fact strengthen the Church in precisely those areas where perceived weakness at present worries opponents. I refer to two examples. It is felt that we need more spiritual direction and perhaps less political advice. One only has to instance the large number of women in the religious orders who already exercise extensive ministries of spiritual direction, or the return to a pastoral vision for the parish priest in place of the current managerial and business models. Those are things which I, together with many other traditionalists, believe lie at the heart of our needs for the future.
If I may risk a rather elitist model, I do so as someone who owes much to the Oxford Movement. Many of us thought that the admission of women to exclusively male colleges in the ancient universities would totally change their character. Now few would deny that the presence of women has nourished many of the most creative and oldest traditions and customs of college life which were falling apart.
It is high time to breathe spiritual life back into a Church weighed down by bureaucracy—a Church which has lost much of its mission to serve and encourage. The ordination of women to the priesthood could mark a significant shift in that direction.
The tendency to view priesthood as another cog in a managerial wheel is ironically further enshrined in the formalism and legalism which underwrite the position of opponents to the Measure. The assurances, the special provisions, the extraordinary episcopal oversight are all judged necessary—I accept that—but nevertheless they are symptoms of an illness which replaces trust and good will with the flawed logic of two integrities. It is a sad paradox that those most fearful of one development in the life of the Church should be blind to their collusion with another which seems far more obviously illegitimate within that same spiritual life.
We are a small Church in worldwide terms. Anglican rhetoric should not get too pretentious. To take this step will not halt progress in ecumenical dialogue, bonds of affection and common action for human betterment. It will raise difficulties in our disagreements over the understanding of authority and decision making. Those problems are serious but they are inherent in a Christianity which is divided and we are still, alas, far from the organic unity which we seek.
Meanwhile I have come to believe that we shall win respect if we make up our minds to do what a considerable consensus believes to be right, and if we are seen to be theologically serious and pastorally sensitive in the way in which we have handled this question. A.J.P. Taylor's How Wars End is a pun on the 1019 title of E.M. Forster's novel Howards End which, in a mystical way, seeks to explore the polarities and struggles not only between races, classes and sexes, but also within the individual human spirit. The well-known epigram, "only connect", catches something of the ironies which lie behind today's debate. Those who are now seen as members of opposing armies could be united in a common cause: the renewal of priesthood for its true moral and spiritual vocation to revive and refresh the roots of faith and nourish the capacities of individuals and communities to stick together, to care for one another and to aim for the highest and the best.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Viscount Whitelaw
My Lords, I have seldom imagined a more difficult position in which to speak than that in which I find myself today. It little occurred to me that I might have to follow the noble Lord, Lord Runcie, when he was no longer Archbishop of Canterbury and I no longer a member of Her Majesty's Government. There was a time when we were in a very different position, brother officers in the same battalion one not knowing that he would go into the Church and the other not imagining that there was any likelihood that he would be a politician of any kind. Now I find myself following the impressive speech of the noble Lord, Lord Runcie. I have always found him impressive in the many years we have been great friends. I appreciate that at last I have a chance to speak after him although not daring to say anything against what he said, even if I had wanted to do so.
Perhaps I may refer to the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. I greatly admire his courage in making a maiden speech in your Lordships' House expressing such views at a very difficult time for him and for his Church. I hope that he will not mind my saying that I admire him greatly for what he did. I am sure that we shall all wish to hear him again in this House on other occasions. It was a considerable performance on his part.
I shall descend from such high levels. I wish to support the most reverend Primate and the Measure which he has put forward in your Lordships' House. As an ordinary member of the Church of England, who started his life as a Scottish Presbyterian, I support the ordination of women as priests in the Church of England, and I welcome the vote of the General Synod in favour of the proposal. However, that is not the issue that I want to address this afternoon. I want rather to draw your Lordships' attention to the consequences if this House failed to approve the Measure this afternoon.
Your Lordships have every right to throw out a Measure presented by the Church of England for Parliament's approval. I do not for one minute question the powers of this House, nor do I suggest that they should not be used where appropriate. However, I invite your Lordships to consider the wisdom of using that power in relation to this particular Measure.
The question of whether women should be ordained as priests is one on which very strong views are held on the opposing sides. It is for that very reason, as has already been made clear, that the Church has proceeded thoughtfully, slowly and with the utmost care. Last year 1020 the long years of debate culminated in a vote in which a two-thirds majority of the General Synod decided in favour of the ordination of women. (As a politician, and as a former Chief Whip in another place, I regard that as a very large majority indeed.) The Ecclesiastical Committee has scrutinised the Measure in great detail and is satisfied that it is expedient that it should pass. The other place has voted in favour of the measure with a massive majority of 194 votes.
Against that background it has to be asked on what grounds it would be right for this House to frustrate the clearly expressed wish of the established Church. I suggest that there would have to be overriding reasons for doing that. It would be very different if your Lordships were satisfied that the Measure was evidently contrary to the wishes of the country at large or if it was against the public interest. No one is suggesting that that is the case here. The relationship between the state and the established Church has evolved over the centuries. It has always been finely balanced, and I believe that it would be unwise for this House alone to upset that balance unless it was clearly in the national interest that it should do so. I do not believe that it is.
Of course there are Members of this House and of another place who disagree with the majority in the General Synod. I very much admired the speech of my noble friend Lord Holderness, although I do not necessarily agree with his views. I recognise that this development in the life of the Church causes them considerable distress. However, we should be in no doubt of the consequences of defeating this Measure tonight. We would create a major crisis between Church and state which, in my judgment, would do no good to anyone involved in the subsequent controversy. That seems particularly true when your Lordships' House would be on its own. Therefore, I hope that your Lordships will appreciate the importance of passing the measure tonight.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Baroness Lockwood
My Lords, I do not intend to speak on ecclesiastical matters. This is a question for the Church itself and it seems to me that the Church has now determined the issue. I feel that the responsibility of this House is to give effect to that decision.
I speak from the premise of equal opportunities for women and men. I do so from my experience as founder chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission from 1975 to 1983. Section 19 of the Sex Discrimination Act specifically excluded ministers of religion from the scope of the Act. It was one of the few excepted areas. However, it is interesting to note that the words of the Act refer to the employment of ministers.
The Church has now made its own decision on its own doctrine and theology and, as we have already heard, has determined in the three Houses of the General Synod by majorities in excess of the required two thirds to admit women to the priesthood. We need therefore now to concern ourselves with the employment of men and women in the Church.
The Equal Opportunities Commission made no attempt to try to influence or put pressure on the Church on ecclesiastical matters. However, the fact that 1021 ministers of religion were excluded from the Sex Discrimination Act did not, and does not, mean that the Church should take no action. It was expected that those areas excluded from the provisions of the Act would in their own way move towards equality. Therefore I suggest that in the light of changes that have taken place in the law, and in the light of fast-changing attitudes of the society in which the Church operates, there is a moral responsibility on the Church to provide equal opportunities for both sexes.
The move for the ordination of women was not new even in 1975. It had been raised many times in the previous 50 or so years. However, in 1975 the three houses of the Synod passed a resolution,That this Synod considers that there are no fundamental objections to the ordination of women to the priesthood".Eighteen years later, I hope that we can reach a conclusion on that principle. That is why I do not accept the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Holderness. Whatever he might say, the effect of his amendment would be to delay even further the ordination of women. I suggest that women have waited too long already. Eighteen years after the principle was accepted is surely long enough to sort out the details.
I suggest that the Measure before us today as outlined by the most reverend Primate adequately caters for the minority view. Indeed, as has already been stated, the Measure leaves women in a disadvantaged position. Women are still excluded from becoming bishops. Parochial church councils can decide that they will not accept a woman as a priest in their parish. I find those two exceptions quite extraordinary. There is a third exception. An incumbent bishop is enabled to exclude women priests from his diocese. However, that issue has been adequately covered by the most reverend Primate, and by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London in a most refreshing maiden speech. Surely once women have entered the priesthood they are entitled to expect the same treatment and consideration as their male colleagues in all respects.
It is not as though women will be coming absolutely new to that calling. Women have performed perfectly well as priests in other denominations; and even in the Church of England itself, as the most reverend Primate stated, there are already some 1,000 women ordained as deacons. Those women have undergone the same training as their male colleagues who have then proceeded to full priesthood while the women have had to remain as deacons. They have fulfilled that function not only adequately but most sensitively and professionally, as those who have heard them perform in Church will testify.
But we are talking about employment. I recognise that to be a priest is a calling, as the noble Lord, Lord Runcie, so movingly outlined. However, it is also a profession and a job. In no other area would an employer be able to say, "Not in this parish", or, "No promotion for women". Even the armed services—they were also an excepted area from the Sex Discrimination Act—are now fully integrating women into the services with opportunities for promotion.
1022 I believe that the Church will have to come back to this. I was encouraged by what was said from the Bishops' Benches. I too hope that it will not be too long before it does so. The Church cannot operate in isolation if it is to meet the needs of today's society. It cannot ignore or in any way erode the principle of equality between the sexes which is so widely prevalent in our community today.
I welcome the Measure so far as it goes. However, I hope that it is only a foretaste of another Measure which would give complete equality to women in the Church.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ The Earl of Lauderdale
My Lords, in rising to support the amendment moved so briefly and powerfully by my noble friend Lord Holderness, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, will forgive me if I do not follow her into the labyrinth of secular values on equal opportunities, and the story about the matter having been debated for years. It appears to have been debated for some 20 years in a Church that has been going for 2,000 years. The debate has been confined to a corner of the Church; it is no more than 10 per cent. or 12 per cent. of Christianity at large.
Although the custom of the House allows the speaker following a maiden speech to thank and congratulate the maiden speaker on behalf of the House as a whole, if I may be allowed to breach the rules perhaps I may also say a word of gratitude to and admiration for the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London for the way in which he made a difficult speech at a difficult time. When he referred to the qualities of priesthood, I could not help reflecting on this. My grandfather was a priest; my father was a priest; my brother was a priest; I look forward to my son, who is a priest, attending my final moments. I have to confess that I funked the issue. I ran away from a life of sacrifice and work which simply scared the hell out of me; therefore I am a defector from our family tradition.
The noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, asked on what basis we can ask the House to pass the amendment. With respect, perhaps I may suggest that the moment has come to consider the issue with a slightly better sense of proportion and history. So far from this measure being progressive, as it is commonly thought to be, it runs completely against the ethos, direction and practice of our national Church as it has unfolded since the 17th century.
The Act of Uniformity of 1662 was directed mainly against Roman Catholics. That hostile direction against our fellow Christians was corrected 200 years later in the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829. The 1689 Toleration Act was directed against people who in those days were known as dissenters. At that time hundreds of clergy left the Church of England on account of the Act. However, the effect of the Toleration Act was removed when the Measure was repealed in 1828—a move towards further toleration. The 1874 Public Worship Regulation Act was designed to stop clergy who were known as ritualists. Father Tooth, a well known priest, was sent to gaol under it; and Father Mackonochie was suspended for wearing the very vestments which most bishops today are happy to wear.
1023 General public approval of other religious communities has developed. For example, in our own day exceptions with regard to the Marriage Acts have been made in favour of Quakers and of Jews. As recently as 1976, the amendment Act in relation to crash helmets enabled Sikhs to be spared the indignity and the religious humiliation of casting their turbans aside for crash helmets.
Therefore the most reverend Primate, to whom I listened with great interest, attention and affection, might well proclaim, as he did in a notable lecture at Denver, Colorado, only a fortnight ago:We are not a communion that forces others out because they cannot utter the same formulas".Against that claim, how does this Measure stand? First, it was voted against at all levels by about 30 per cent. of Church people—30 per cent. throughout. They voted against being eventually forced—those who resisted, of whom I am one—to accept absolution or the celebration of Holy Communion by a woman priest.
At bishop level from the end of the present range of present bishops, all future bishops, according to this Measure, must—under Clause 2—accept the principle of women priests. That means that bishops, archdeacons, deans, rural deans, and parish clergy must all, as the Measure stands with Clause 2, bow the knee to women priests or get out. That is hardly a tribute to our tradition of toleration.
Our national Church has already been overtaken by the Roman Church in the past 10 years in terms of total effective adult membership. In the past 10 years, our national Church has lost no fewer than 10 per cent. of those who were sufficiently committed to sign up to the electoral roll. Those figures are from Church House. As it stands, this Measure, unamended, unaltered or unaffected by an Act of Synod would bully 30 per cent. of our people—say, about 400,000, taking the Church of England as a whole—and drive them in many cases out of our national Church. The Anglican Church in the United States has lost something like 30 per cent. of its membership within the 14 years since the ordination of women.
We have been told that there is generous financial compensation. Perhaps it is generous. But let us think whom it excludes. There is nothing for missionaries; hospital chaplains; prison chaplains, or chaplains to the forces. There is nothing for young priests who have less than five years' service and may perhaps have given a couple of years of their lives to theological training. There is nothing for lay employees, be they of the Synod, of the Church Commission, of the dioceses, or indeed as ordinary vergers.
We are told that the Act of Synod will correct all that. It would give body to the most reverend Primate's ringing declarations (again in Colorado) that,both those for and those against have an honourable place".Those are his words.
But the Act of Synod has not even been voted on. It is not even before this House. We are not discussing it. We cannot discuss it as we do not have it. It is no more than an appendix of the Ecclesiastical Committee Report. It is not a paper before this House. It has not been voted on. We hear of sharp feminist opposition. 1024 What is more, it can be rescinded. It will have no legal power, whatever its moral authority may be. It can have no legal force like this Measure; and, as I said, is not even before this House tonight. Yet it is held out as a sort of escape to guarantee and safeguard the correction of the wrongs of the Measure now before us.
The most reverend Primate declared—and I so much approve of his language; I support, respect and endorse his language:We are a roomy Church, within the parameters of doctrinal integrity. Let us rejoice in that roominess".But, my Lords, is doctrinal integrity really respected by what I can only call the sneaky device of changing the clear meaning of key words in The Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal in order to get round the restrictions imposed by the Synod's own worship and doctrine measure. It says, in effect, that "He", "Him" and "His" also mean "She", "Her" and "Hers". In my view—and I have to put it as moderately as I can to the House—it is a shady device to disguise a deep doctrinal change.
The most reverend Primate and the bishops, and indeed the clergy, all subscribe to the 39 Articles, which include this statement:Councils can err and have erredIn practice, I believe that the effect of this Measure will not be to enlarge our national Church, but to shrink it still further; that it will divide it at all levels, down to the parish itself. I submit that this Measure is premature, unworthy and unfair.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Guildford
My Lords, perhaps I may begin by adding my congratulations to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London on his maiden speech. Not only did he speak with courage and impressively, but he has—if I may dare to say so in his presence—combined with integrity his clear disagreement with the decision made by the General Synod and his loyalty to the Church that has made that decision. Many of us who have worked with him over the past few years have been immensely impressed by the integrity with which he has held those two difficult convictions together. He has done that at some cost. He revealed to us in some measure this afternoon how he has been on the receiving end not merely of criticism but even of abuse. Handbags have sharp edges in the Church just as they do in the state.
This debate is of significance to both Church and state. It touches the ordained ministry and so is of direct concern to the Church; it is part of the continuing debate about the relationship between men and women, and so is of general concern to the state. There is an appropriateness therefore in the issue being discussed in this House, where Church and state work together, for the most part happily, although from time to time uneasily.
It is said by some that this decision is a breach of tradition which the Church of England should not countenance, and certainly one which it should not countenance on its own. Those of us who are in favour 1025 of the ordination of women to the priesthood do not see this as a break in tradition, but as a restatement of the tradition in order to preserve it.
The tradition that we have inherited is that, in Christ, God took human nature and used it as the means through which to express and live out his divine life. We now see with renewed clarity, both in scripture and in the contemporary world, that human nature is not masculinity, but men and women together in interaction and complementarity. If we are to express that fully and freshly, then we must have within the priesthood both men and women alongside one another, interacting with each other and changing one another. I say that because priesthood is representative of the whole people of God and also of Christ, who is the God who assumed human nature. So although the ordination of women to the priesthood is a break with tradition in the sense that it has not happened before, at any rate in England, it is not a break with tradition in the sense of truth handed down to us.
I suggest that tradition is not a rock-like inheritance of truth from the past which we must bury in the ground in order to preserve it intact. Tradition is a living body of truth with which we have to trade in the modern world; and it has to be stated afresh in each generation. When therefore the noble Lord, Lord Holderness, refers in his amendment to "those who hold traditional beliefs"—I fully understand what he means—I have to say that those of us who are in favour of the ordination of women to the priesthood consider ourselves to be wholly loyal to tradition and to hold traditional views, yet recognising our duty to restate that tradition in order to preserve it.
I observe a shift in the arguments which have been used by those opposed to the ordination of women to the priesthood. Not so long ago many opponents would have argued that it was a step which was wrong in itself and had no sound theological basis. Today not so many people use that argument. They urge rather that the Church of England should not take this step on its own. We should not move out of line with the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. That is a weighty argument. I do not lightly contemplate a step which risks distancing me from my colleagues in the Roman Catholic Church with whom I have close and warm relations. But both Churches make some decisions which have that effect and our relationship still continues. Twenty five years ago the Church of England incorporated lay people into its synods and gave them a formal role in the determination of doctrine, a step which put us out of line with the Roman Catholics and with the Orthodox. So this will not be the first time that we judge it right in the circumstances to act independently. We treasure our ecumenical partnership but not at the cost of waiting at the church door so long that we never move up the aisle.
I want to underline the extent to which the House of Bishops has worked to ensure the continuing openness of the Church of England. The legislation before your Lordships is, I submit, pastoral in intent and generous in spirit, making detailed provision for those who cannot support the decision that has been made. The draft Act 1026 of Synod takes that further and indicates the way in which we shall implement those provisions. The arrangements in the draft Act of Synod are not suitable for legislation. They are more about style and method than about rights and duties; and there is the possibility that the General Synod will not endorse the draft Act. But even if that were to happen, the fact remains that the bishops have agreed the draft Act without dissent and our intention, indeed our determination, is unmistakable. Therefore I imagine that we shall implement this, even if the General Synod were to be so unwise as not to endorse it.
In his very courteous speech when introducing his amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Holderness, referred to the lack of trust that exists. I do not doubt that that is in fact true in some cases. But I draw his attention to the fact that over the course of the past few months a number of bishops have been appointed who are opposed to the ordination of women to the priesthood. I hope that the mere fact that such bishops are being appointed proves what is set out in the draft Act of Synod and goes a long way towards removing any anxiety about a lack of trust.
§ The Earl of Lauderdale
My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt the right reverend Prelate for one moment. Is it not the case that new appointments are indeed replacements of people who held the same point of view?
§ The Lord Bishop of Guildford
My Lords, in all cases that is not so and in some cases they are new appointments of bishops where the predecessor has not been of that view. With great courtesy I wish to disagree with the noble Earl's suggestion. I noted that he referred to the financial provisions Measure and said that in it there was no provision for such people as missionaries, hospital chaplains, prison chaplains and so on. Perhaps I may correct him. That is not so. There is provision for such people but because of the administrative complexity they are not given provision by right, as are the parochial clergy. Because their circumstances vary so considerably, it was thought right to make provision for them in slightly different terms. I assure him that there is provision in the financial provisions Measure for the people whom he listed.
This is not just a theological or domestic issue for the Church. It touches the relationship and evaluation of men and women in society. We have seen women increasingly taking their place alongside men in every walk of life, not least in your Lordships' House where noble Baronesses are as distinguished, as persuasive and sometimes as formidable as any noble Lord. When the ordained ministry of the Church is virtually the last area where women are not free to make their contribution, we at least have to ask the question: why?
The matter cannot be determined by such considerations alone but the question cannot be sidestepped. Many of us are ready to say that we have learnt, and learnt too slowly, from observing the way in which women have contributed to society an insight which we ought to have learnt earlier from elsewhere.
Everything is now in place for this historic step forward in the life and ministry of the Church of 1027 England, save for your Lordships' approval and the Royal Assent. I trust that your Lordships will recognise that this matter has been debated in depth and at length and that careful provision has been made for those who do not agree. Both Church and nation now await our endorsement. I hope that the approval of this House will be clear, confident and encouraging, as the Church of England looks to the future in its service of God and ministry to the nation.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ Baroness Platt of Writtle
My Lords, so much has been said and written on this subject that I intend to be brief, especially in view of the universally impressive nature of the speeches that we have heard this afternoon. On good episcopal advice I understand that there is no scriptural reason why women should not be ordained. There is every reason why the Church of England should take advantage of all the talents God created and all the inspiration that the Holy Spirit provided, whether they are in the hearts and minds of men or of women. I agree with the right reverend Prelate on the question of their working together.
In this decade of evangelism, all Anglicans must be only too well aware of the need to spread the Gospel more widely: "The hungry sheep look up and are not fed". Many people have no appreciation of the opportunity for forgiveness by the grace of God and have no idea of how to carry out the will of God or how His yoke is easy and His burden is light, if faith is present in their hearts.
The admission of women to the priesthood will provide the Church with a new source of inspiration. Not every woman who wants to be ordained will be admitted, which is just as happens to men already. They must he suitable and clearly inspired to follow Our Lord according to Anglican principles.
It will take time before they permeate throughout the Church, which will give time also for those against their ordination to take advantage of the provisions set out and approved by all three houses of the General Synod or stay with a parish and diocese with a male priest and bishop. All the actions on both sides need to be inspired by the words of our Lord that we should love one another and treat each other gently. Gradually, with time, I believe that the Church will come to be thankful for the witness of women as priests and to see its great value. In 100 years nobody will be able to understand why it took so long to be agreed.
I hope that this House will agree to the ordination of women priests within the Church of England as put forward by the most reverend Primate this afternoon.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Lord Soper
My Lords, I support the Motion so ably presented by the most reverend Primate and at the same time I commend the cogency of the arguments presented on the other side. Nevertheless, I believe that the overwhelming consensus should be that in principle the Motion should be supported; that it is right theologically, and that pragmatically the difficulties are matters of peradventure rather than prohibition.
1028 I am somewhat disturbed that hitherto no reference has been made to some of the underlying difficulties in the recognition of the equality, in substance and in truth, of man and woman. To a large extent I. believe that the Christian Church is to blame for that. From time to time I have endeavoured to commend the Bible but with the proviso that "The Bible says" is a contradiction in terms. It says a number of things. But one makes up one's own mind what one wants to believe and then finds the appropriate text to support it.
There is no way of commending the ultimate truth of the most precious book that we have. But the orthodoxy of the Bible statements and the principles set forth by the Christian Church have been set within a sex relationship and a scientific background which have long since passed away as being unsatisfactory. We should talk a little more about some of the problems which seem to face ordinary people and the assumption that they should take for granted propositions from the: so-called scientific field which no longer apply. I shall briefly refer to two reasons why we should do so.
The suggestion that man is superior to woman relies on the implicit recognition by a great many people—older people, in general, who have never thought about it very much—that the source of life is in the male and that the woman provides something like bed-and-breakfast accommodation in the early stages of life. Thereafter the infant is introduced to the wider world, where the benefits of that bed-and-breakfast spell may be obvious. But there is a world of difference between the man and the bed in which he begins. The assumption that woman is the custodian but not the equal creative agent in the production of life is one of the reasons why it is still incipient in a great many people's minds that, whatever may be the attitude—and it is one that should be cultivated—of courtesy and recognition of the great powers and virtues of woman, she is an inferior creature and does not belong to the creative process.
It may be argued that this is not something which agitates the minds of most people. But I assure your Lordships that it does. I find that it is the kind of question that arises in the open air, of all places. I speak with care, and I dare to do so being of a sufficient age that no one will assume any arrière-pensée. The idea that periodically woman is contaminated by an effusion of blood is part of a dangerous, primitive attitude to the whole concept of blood. I find it represented, all too unfortunately, in a great deal of fascist literature.
Though it may be thought a presumption for me to enter upon these fields, for what it is worth I can say from my own experience that over and over again the argument may prevail, "You win your case and you lose your man", because the man to whom one endeavours to present a truth is already irradiated, so to speak, with a particular venom. That venom is much more difficult to eradicate than I think the courteous and kindly presentation of accurate theological problems is likely to succeed.
What we must do within the Church is to present an answer to many of the reminiscences on the part particularly of middle-aged people who remember the days when they were invited to read the Bible and went to Sunday school and church. They have retained in the 1029 recesses of their minds propositions about man and woman which need to be eradicated and can only be eradicated in a more precise and authoritative presentation. In commending the Measure, I believe that a great deal more education is needed.
I remind myself that I am a Methodist minister and I hope before I die to become a member of the preaching order within the Anglican Communion. We are not yet there, though we have made some advances in that direction, and I was responsible for the initiation of that programme. I would say to my ecclesiastical friends, who are in such an impressive array today that I feel all the more humble in my hope of being a member of the society of the future, rather than the divisive societies of today, that we have an experience already in the Methodist Church of the vocationary priesthood of women.
I have two more points. First, ecclesiastically the question of garments presented a little difficulty. We are not quite sure yet what the women should wear, and they are not sure about it. Some of the contemporary papers that advocate the gestiary programmes for the culture of women today have not helped.
Secondly, a great many of the youngsters who will be in the Church of tomorrow are pretty impatient about the nonsense that they assume people are talking about the vocation of women. It does not bother them, not necessarily because they have thought out the arguments in detail or that they have applied themselves with great consistency to prayerful thought on the matter; but because it seems as obvious as the daylight that the fullness of the Christian gospel depends on the equal opportunity of man and woman, boy and girl to respond in their own way to a common principle and vocation. It is in that field that I believe this is a refreshing Measure of hope for the future.
Finally, I find that within a Church which has equal opportunity for men and women there is a clearer perception of the Kingdom of God. I read my New Testament and I find that Jesus bids us, first of all, to seek that kingdom and in the search and finding of it we shall find the answers to the other problems which now so consistently perplex us. God bless this Measure and God bless the principle whereby it may bring us closer together. Perhaps my ecclesiastical friends can help me to find my way into the Church of England sooner or later and to join with them in the ministry of what I believe to be the way of God for us.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Viscount Caldecote
My Lords, I do not question in any way the sincerity of the opponents of this Measure for the ordination of women though I find the arguments hard to understand, let alone to accept. There was much talk in the discussions which led up to the Measure coming before us about the tradition of the Church of England. But surely the value of tradition is not in keeping everything the same but in keeping the best from the past; not stagnation, as the noble and reverend Lord, Lord Runcie, and others have said. There has been a long tradition in this House of excluding women; and in law, medicine and business there has been a bias 1030 against women. Was it wrong to make that change? Of course not. It was right to change from those outdated practices.
I shall not go into the theological arguments. They have been very well dealt with by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and they are best left indeed to the well informed such as he. But so far as I can understand the theological arguments, I find them not proven. Equally, the legal and constitutional arguments are best left to lawyers. For laymen and laywomen, surely the strongest—indeed, I believe the almost overwhelming—argument for change is the plea by Jesus to his disciples:The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest".This Measure is the answer to that prayer. We are sending out women to labour with men in the harvest, to take a full part in the work of the Church, to enrich it with their special talents and in the preaching of the Christian gospel more widely. In the words that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury used, "Let us get on with it now".
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Lord Templeman
My Lords, I beg to offer a short account of the role of the Ecclesiastical Committee in these matters. I should like to begin by paying tribute to the work of the legal adviser, Mr. Derek Rippengal, and the clerk to the committee, Mr. Clive Mitchell. Their experience and their ability secured that the affairs of the committee were well administered and that the reports of the committee were well drafted. I should also like to thank my colleagues on the committee for their forbearance and co-operation despite the passionate views which were held and which were firmly expressed.
By the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919 every Measure passed by the three Houses of Synod by a two-thirds majority shall be submitted to the Ecclesiastical Committee and, in the words of the statute:After considering the Measure, the Ecclesiastical Committee shall draft a report thereon to Parliament stating the nature and legal effect of the Measure and its views as to the expediency thereof".The Ecclesiastical Committee consists of 15 Members of the House of Commons appointed by the Speaker, and 15 Members of the House of Lords appointed by the Lord Chancellor. Without casting any aspersions, I would say that at the moment it consists of 15 male Members of the House of Commons, and 12 male and three female Members of the House of Lords. At one of the first meetings of the committee it agreed that when each Member came to decide for himself or herself whether or not a Measure was expedient, then he or she could do no better than decide whether in his or her view the Measure was a good thing or a bad thing. The word "expediency" is so slippery that one can attribute any meaning to it. That was the principle on which we worked. We had to make up our individual minds whether we thought it was good for Church and state or bad.
1031 In accordance with its usual practice, the committee invited Synod to send representatives to assist the committee in its deliberations. Those representatives were led by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford and Professor David McClean. As your Lordships have heard, the representatives also included two members of Synod who opposed the ordination of women priests. The committee met the representatives on four occasions over a total period of 10 hours, all of which was spent in the closest cross-examination of the representatives of the Synod on all the issues which were troubling members of the committee. The representatives of Synod exhibited, as one would expect, immense patience, tolerance and goodness; and provided a great deal of information for the benefit of the Ecclesiastical Committee.
Next, and pursuant to the power conferred on the committee by the statute, the legislative committee of Synod was then invited to a conference to discuss the measures. The conference took place and lasted for about two hours. The legislative committee was led by the most reverend Primates the Archbishops of Canterbury and of York and addressed itself fully to the issues which were troubling some members of the Ecclesiastical Committee.
There were three issues: the principle of whether women should be ordained priests of the Church of England. Your Lordships have heard the noble and reverend Lord, Lord Runcie, on the one hand, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London on the other. The arguments are also set forth less eloquently in the report of the Ecclesiastical Committee. The second issue was the adequacy of the arrangements to be made to enable clergy who are opposed to the ordination of women priests to remain members of the Church of England. In one sense the established Church was in a great dilemma. If it made no arrangements, it would be attacked for driving out the clergy who disagreed with the ordination of women. If it made some arrangements, it would be accused of not making the right arrangements or of doing something which contradicted the principle of the freedom and equality of women.
The third issue was the adequacy of the financial arrangements for clergy who, as a matter of conscience, would feel obliged to resign from the Church. Here again, as your Lordships have heard, the Church was in the dilemma of being accused of being too mean or too generous. The arguments on all those issues are set out in the Ecclesiastical Committee's report.
In the meantime, in January 1993 the House of Bishops had issued a statement, the first Manchester statement, outlining the arrangements suggested to ensure continued episcopal oversight and pastoral care for all members of the Church of England. This was followed by a pastoral letter from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London in May 1993 in which, after much consultation within the diocese, he set out a framework of the basic principles by which the diocese intended to proceed. That pastoral letter is also set out in the report and will be carried out by the diocese whether or not the amendment to the Motion is carried.
There then followed in June 1993, after the meetings between the Ecclesiastical Committee and the 1032 representatives of Synod, the statement of the House of Bishops entitled "Bonds of Peace" proposing further arrangements for pastoral care following the ordination of women to the priesthood. Some members of the Ecclesiastical Committee and no doubt other persons also had supported the suggestion that there should be an Act of Synod expressing the intention that there should be no discrimination between candidates either for ordination or for appointment to senior office in the Church of England on the ground of their views. Your Lordships have heard that the draft Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod which is annexed to the second Manchester statement is to be brought before Synod next week.
On 12th July the Ecclesiastical Committee voted by 16 to 11 that the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure was expedient. It voted by 17 votes to 10 that the Ordination of Women (Financial Provisions) Measure also was expedient. On 19th July the report on the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure was agreed by 17 votes to one and the report on the Ordination of Women (Financial Provisions) Measure was agreed by the same majority. That enabled the reports to be cleared and published before the Summer Recess, and it is for that reason that the Motion has been able to be brought on today.
That concludes the account which I thought it right to give to the House of the activities of the committee. Having said that, I feel entitled to say a word about the Motion before the House and about the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Holderness. There are three choices for the House. The first is to reject the measure lock, stock and barrel. I think only one noble Lord—the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale—is in favour of complete rejection. There are not many still left who are root and branch asking for rejection.
The second alternative is to accept the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Holderness. As I understand it, that amendment will not in fact make any radical difference. It will not propose any new arrangements; it will propose that the existing arrangements shall be seen to be embodied in an Act of Synod to start with and shall then be followed by a new measure which reinforces it.
In my view, that is neither one thing nor the other. Your Lordships are faced with the task of deciding whether or not to pass this Motion. The Church of England has been struggling with the problem of the place of women in the Church for more than 20 years. There are many other problems which face the Church, and a continuation of the dispute over women can do no good and will do a lot of harm. Synod has voted by large majorities in favour. Before that the great majority of the Synods of Diocese voted for the Measure. The opposition in the other place has proved to be more vociferous than numerous. The representatives of the Synod met the Ecclesiastical Committee and the members of the Legislative Committee and we found that they all demonstrated, as one would expect, the desire of all Church leaders to enable now, as in the past, men and women of different views to remain and work within the Church.
1033 It has been my task over the past months to consider all the papers which have been written: the letters, the speeches and the questions which were put to the Ecclesiastical Committee. I have formed the view that the time has come to trust the Church and its leaders. Therefore, I shall vote against the amendment and support the Motion.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Sheffield
My Lords, it was from a former Member of this House, the former Bishop of Birmingham, Hugh Montefiore, that I learnt that there was a moral strength in being in a minority of one, or nearly one. I am one of those who do not think that the Measure before us is a good thing; I believe that it is a bad thing. But yet, for the reasons which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Templeman, has just outlined and which the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, spoke of earlier, I am not asking this House to reject the Measure or support the amendment. Nor am I against the strengthening, broadening and the increase of the ministry of women in the Church of England. No Bishop of Sheffield could be. He sees the work that they do. He is scandalised at the lack of opportunities for that work which we give them. He sees some good in this Measure in the opportunities—I almost dare to say the career opportunities—which will be justly due to them. I listened with the greatest sympathy to the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, and did not disagree with them.
Why then do I waste your Lordships' time by speaking? I say this with an absurd arrogance which I hope is really humility: it is because of history. I believe that in 100 years time the noble Baroness, Lady Platt, will have been proved wrong and that it will be about my words that people will say, "how wise he was and how wrong everybody else was". Arrogance—I apologise for that.
One of the curiosities of the Church of England is that one cannot do anything without swearing oaths. It is very curious that we are so fond of swearing oaths. As a result, there are no words with which Bishops are more familiar than those of the declaration of assent. We read over and over again these words:The Church of England is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church worshipping the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation. Led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons".Then we say to the man or woman who is taking some office in the Church:In the declaration you are about to make will you affirm your loyalty to this inheritance of faith as your inspiration and guidance under God in bringing the grace and truth of Christ to this generation and making Him known to those in your care?Repetition has not staled those words for me. I find them moving every time I read them and they are words to which I can give my personal assent with wholehearted conviction. What worries me about this Measure, which makes it expedient but not a good thing, 1034 is that it seems to me, in the arguments which have been used for it and in the way in which it has been carried through, that it drives a bulldozer over and through those formularies and the foundations of the Church. They are battered and damaged as a result.
It is quite clear, whether we look to the faith uniquely revealed in the holy scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, or whether we look to our historic formularies—the 39 Articles and the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal—that we do not find anywhere in any of those root documents of our faith statements that encourage, permit or authorise the ordination of women as elders to the presbyterate.
I find that worrying and puzzling. The arguments have been put forward to us very forcefully this afternoon. I can see why in today's world it seems so obvious that we should do this. But if we do claim to have a faith uniquely revealed in the holy scriptures, if we do believe that there is a deposit of the apostolic faith which has been entrusted to the Church to be guarded and handed on, it is embarrassing, puzzling and worrying in that whenever it does not fit the circumstances in which we find ourselves, we are able to gently juggle it around a bit so that we can do something different, something fresh.
It may be right for us to say that the question of ordination and the sex of the ordained minister is of no great importance and we can make this change. But if we can make that change, I want to know what changes we cannot make. The point that worries me is that if we can sit so lightly with the Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal, the 39 Articles and the scriptures on this matter for such powerful reasons as we have heard, why can we be sure that there will not be other matters? How can we tell? Is there anything which cannot be changed to meet the changing circumstances of the time?
An attractive picture of the Church has been put before us in a number of speeches today, constantly changing to respond to the changing needs and circumstances of the time. But I do worry whether that is really what revelation is about—changing to meet the changing circumstances. Might it not be that, however inexpedient and unpopular it may be, we do have an inheritance of faith which we are called on to protect and guard? I do not want to argue for one second for the superiority of one sex against the other, but I find the argument that one can cross out "he" and write "she" as though it made no difference, difficult to find wholly acceptable. Male and female He makes in His image after His likeness, but surely in our hearts of hearts, whatever is said, we know this to be true: male and female are different. It is just possible that what the Church has called us to—and I recognise that it has been deaf and blind to this over the centuries—is a much richer, more varied ministry than it has had: a ministry of men and women, but not a ministry of men and women who are simply interchangeable. Might it just possibly be right that our Lord, who was so dramatically revolutionary in his response to the world of his day, knew what he was about when he chose 12 men and gave a different ministry to women?
Through the centuries we have been shameful within the Church and outside the Church in our treatment of 1035 women. I recognise and repent of that. I long for change, but I do not believe that this particular change, which seems to be saying that men and women are the same and therefore all ministry can be carried out interchangeably by one and the other, is the right way.
I believe that we are making a mistake. I believe that something of the nature of that mistake is shown in the very wording of the Measure in which the concessions to the minority, to the opponents—Clause 2 about bishops, the compensation formularies and the very curious statement about bishops—are all designed, if the truth were told, to get the Measure through at any cost. It would have been better, I think, if we had just had the courage to be less traditional and more radical and if we had gone for a richer variety of ministry rather than for a pattern which diminishes the richness of God's creation rather than enhances it.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Baroness Denton of Wakefield
My Lords, you will appreciate that I stand in this place because the views that I am about to express are entirely personal and—not surprisingly—female.
There are two concerned parties in today's debate—the Church and women. I would not feel that I had any right whatsoever to interfere or comment on decisions of the former; but as the issue of the ordination of women priests has now arrived in your Lordships' House with a very clear message, so ably delivered by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, that the Church of England is in favour of it, I consider that not only do I have the right, but the need to ask your Lordships on behalf of women to support the Synod and our colleagues in another place in clearing the hurdles for women to become priests. I do so with some confidence as I have never found an establishment which welcomes, assimilates and nurtures its women members more easily and comfortably than your Lordships' House.
I respect the absolute depth of feeling held by those who would not wish to see women ordained as priests, but I do not understand it. Where is the right that says that over half the human race is lesser than the rest? Would they find it as easy to say that by colour or race as by gender? I am told by opponents that the arguments are theological and that this is not a women's rights issue. Let me assure your Lordships that for most women it is most definitely a women's rights issue—a right of equality for both he and she. I am told by opponents that the ordination of women priests will split the Church. I would suggest that continuing failure to allow women to become priests would start to split the community.
I should like to join the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, in congratulating those women involved in the long struggle for ordination on the manner in which they have conducted themselves—no storming of the altar, no mass resignations to join the Methodists or the United Reformed Church where their welcome would have been certain:; instead, frustration contained, argument engaged and, finally, persuasion successful. 1036 Would we wish to replace those expressions of joy which showed on the faces of women when Synod delivered a two-thirds majority with ones of despair?
I suggest that this is not only an issue for women, but also for the future strength of the Church of England. Any area which fails to harness the skills, talents and instincts of women must find itself running a one-legged race. Can the Church afford that? Can our country afford it? We have great need of the Church as a partner to help to restore values of common decency and respect for others. In a week when we mourn more indiscriminate killings in Northern Ireland and watch with horror the trial of two youngsters charged with the murder of a two year-old boy, the country has surely reached a stage of saying, "Enough is enough".
The family of all shapes and sizes will return in importance. Many will have only one parent. Can those of us in Church and state say to women, "You have the responsibility for the future, but you have no future in the Church hierarchy"? It has been proved time and time again that women bring value to any organisation yet all mature bodies have difficulty in letting them play their full role: the financial institutions, manufacturing industry, the trade unions and some arms of the Church. The advancement of women has often been resisted and impeded by the combined forces of vested interest and prejudice masquerading as tradition.
The Church of England is not just the state church of these islands; its influence touches all the global Anglican communions, among whose members several have already ordained women, including New Zealand. That was no surprise to me from a country which was one of the first to grant female suffrage.
In discussing with a woman priest the question of the handicaps that she had experienced, she said that she felt only one—the lack of a wife to help. Women secular Ministers understand that, too. It is not a barrier.
Women can be full and equal partners in the ministry of the Church. We would riot today be breaking new ground; we would be following a path which had proved smooth and relatively painless.
At school speechdays I have some difficulty identifying where bright young girls can now establish a first: Prime Minister is achieved; space is achieved and President of the United States seems almost to be achieved in this administration. But I would go further than the noble Baronesses on the Front Benches opposite: I hope that in due time one may encourage them to focus their vision even higher than bishop. It is, after all, in the Bible that without vision, people perish.
One of the dangers in encouraging women to take their rightful place in society is that we become extreme, and the balance swings totally to the other side. People must have choice and we should welcome the proposals today which make provision for those whose choice would be different from ours.
There is much change in today's world and an organisation which stands still is likely to find itself moving backwards. Synod voted to move forward. I hope that we will not handicap that wish. It would be a difficult story to tell our daughters and granddaughters.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Lord Glenamara
My Lords, I speak as a lifelong practising Anglican, one who veers towards the Anglo-Catholic side of the Church. Indeed, these days on certain Sundays in the month I attend a Catholic church because I disagree with the service in my own church. I am afraid that I cannot claim for myself, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London did, that I have always been a faithful member of the Church, but at any rate I have tried.
I mention this about myself because I passionately believe in the ordination of women priests. I should like to give three reasons for that. First, from time to time I stay in a parish in the State of New Jersey in the United States. That parish has a small stone church which could pass as an English parish church. It has a rector and a woman assistant priest. On my last visit, I was sitting in the church at the eucharist, watching the procession come down the nave from the vestry at the back. The rector came at the end. He was preceded by the woman priest who was heavily pregnant. I mention that because I did not find that in any way incongruous.
On the contrary, it brought home to me, in a way that nothing else has ever done, that women, because of their special role in the upbringing of children, can bring all the compassion, all the love, all the caring from motherhood to a hitherto wholly male priesthood. I believe that that will complement the rather different pattern of qualities of the male priest. It will give the Church a new and richer dimension in its pastoral work, which in today's society is of tremendous importance. That is the first point that I want to make: that, in my view, women priests will make the Church a more caring, compassionate Church.
Secondly, perhaps I may mention another parish with which I am associated in the County of Cumbria. In the past few years there have been a great many amalgamations of parishes. The parish about which I am talking comprises five amalgamated parishes. It has a small country town; a sparsely populated fell parish; one large village which has two satellite hamlets and two parish churches; and, in addition, two typical Cumbrian villages. Those five parishes, spread over a vast area of countryside, and with six churches, are looked after by one priest. How on earth can he organise a reasonable pattern of services, given all that responsibility? How on earth can there be anything but the most sketchy pastoral care in such a parish? I pay tribute to the dedicated work that so many priests are doing in such circumstances.
Of course, it could be argued that the Church, in its present straitened circumstances, cannot afford more. But its finances will revive, provided that it stays out of the American property market. The finances will improve. But if the Church is to provide an adequate ministry throughout the country, it must have more ordinands than it is getting at present. It is ludicrous to exclude half the human race from the field of recruitment. That is my second point: that the Church needs women priests as never before to make its mission effective.
1038 Thirdly, there have now been 70 years of debate about women priests. "Women priests" have almost come to be regarded as an end in themselves. We sometimes forget that what we are really discussing is the service that the Church gives to the man or woman in the pew and to those who never sit in the pews. To use an inelegant modern phrase, they are the "bottom line" in all this discussion. It is the people in the pews about whom we are really talking tonight. They are hardly ever consulted about what the activists in the various synods are deciding.
I am associated closely with two churches. No synod representative has ever asked me my views on women priests. So what do Mr. Jones and Mrs. Smith, sitting in one of the back pews, as they do, well away from the pulpit, feel about women priests? I have a theory about it. I believe that over his lifetime the ordinary churchgoer thinks long and hard about his faith. He will probably never admit it, but I am sure that he does. That is especially true about the great verities: does God exist? and the divinity of Christ, life after death and so on. I am sure that in his own mind he reaches certain conclusions. Those conclusions are every bit as valid as those that he hears from the pulpit, as those of the most erudite theologian. Indeed, I do not believe that theology is a matter solely for theologians; it is a matter for all human beings in their own minds and hearts.
I believe that most churchgoers have thought hard and long about women priests. I would not presume to speak for Mr. Jones or Mrs. Smith sitting in that back pew, but I count myself, like the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, as an average sort of churchgoer. I can find no theological argument against admitting women to the priesthood. The right reverend Prelate answered the points one by one. The silliest argument I hear is that all our Lord's apostles were male, and therefore we have to have a male priesthood for ever more.
If a great rabbi arose today and decided to carry out a three-year mission, tramping up and down the country, sleeping wherever he could find shelter, and taking with him a small band of disciples, I am sure that it would be a mixed band of young men and women. That would have been unthinkable in the time of Christ. That is a thoroughly silly point which has no relevance to this discussion. That is my third point: there is no theological argument that convinces me, or anyone that I know in the pews, against women priests.
There are 30 autonomous Churches in the Anglican community throughout the world. More than half have admitted women priests. It is high time that we did so in this country. Perhaps I may say to the right reverend Primate that I hope that it will not be long before the next slice is taken off the salami and the Church also admits women bishops.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Lord Sudeley
My Lords, my first remarks concern the relationship of doctrine to the Measure. The prayer book is the yardstick of the Anglican doctrine, and it is unequivocal about the male priesthood. But I am afraid that the Synod has wriggled here with Canon C4B which does not come before Parliament. The point was 1039 well dealt with by Enoch Powell at the AGM of the Prayer Book Society in June, and his speech has just been printed in the journal of the Prayer Book Society.
It was argued before the Ecclesiastical Committee that the text of the prayer book and the Ordinal is not altered by the Canon, but that instead we have here an interpretive clause. It is worth remarking that only the clergy is obliged to sign a declaration of assent to the formularies of the Church of England, which will imply acceptance of that Canon. The laity is under no such obligation. We do not know whether the Canon will receive Royal Assent. Royal Assent to canons has been refused previously.
Then there is the judicial review which had to decide whether the Synod was acting ultra vires in changing the doctrine of the Church of England. We have to lodge a complaint here: that there was no transcript of that judicial review available in the Library of the House of Lords before the debate. I cannot suggest to a Chamber of legislators that the judges, there to interpret the law, bent it owing to the imminence of the Measure coming before Parliament which makes the law. Leave was given a week previously for a judicial review. We were told that, owing to the Bill of Rights, if the judicial review went the other way, Parliament would be able to keep to its present time schedule.
However, one can suggest that there is a distinction between the intention of legislation and its effect. It is a distinction to which we as legislators are accustomed. The Ecclesiastical Committee was misleading to say that female ordination was a matter not of doctrine but of ecclesiological order. There is no distinction. Ecclesiology used to mean the study of old church buildings. The meaning of the word has shifted to indicate the branch of the theology concerned with the nature of the Church; that is to say, the basis on which decisions are made about order and doctrine.
When the enabling Act of 1919 was passed to set up a Church Assembly the Archbishop of Canterbury then said that it was not an Act which would enable the Church Assembly to change the doctrine of the Church of England. The position did not change in 1969 when the two Houses of Convocation added to the Church Assembly, which then became the Synod.
We know how we obtained the Prayer Book. The old Houses of Convocation prepared formularies which were accepted by Parliament. During the Whig or Hanoverian period of the 18th century the Houses of Convocation were suppressed owing to Jacobite difficulties. They were revived only in the 19th century. When in 1969 the Houses of Convocation were added to the Church Assembly to become the Synod, as the governing body of the Church of England, the Synod did not have and has not had the same kind of spiritual authority as did the old Houses of Convocation.
With this Measure we have a change of doctrine. In his diocesan magazine Sarum Link the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury stated that there is a change of doctrine of which he approves. Other highly-praised churchmen have said the same. With everything going wrong with the Church of England since the enabling Act set up the Church Assembly, as regards matters of doctrine the Church is not a 1040 democracy with majority voting no matter how fashionable democracy may be elsewhere. We cannot say that because social conditions have changed, we can change the doctrine.
The ordination of women is not what the Church has taught for 2,000 years; nor is it grounded in scripture. The best speech was made in Synod on 11th November by Mrs. Lowe. She said that either Christ was God's disclosure or he was not. Such thinking has already given ample difficulty to the secularisation of Christianity in the revision of the liturgy, which is really a repetition of the old Arian heresy. There are no new heresies; they are all old ones.
I am sorry that the Measure will cause so much disruption in the Church. What is the alternative long-stop? The Third Province, put forward by Mrs. Brown in Synod, is a fine dream but unworkable with its proposals for its own archbishops and Synod. It would not be worn by the Church of England. The best option would be the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC), of which I have personal experience having been to lecture three times at its seminary at Holyrood in New York State.
The story of the ACC in America is that it started 15 years ago with fragile origins when the Prayer Book was ditched and women were ordained. Since then the ACC has grown, and not only in the USA. There are branches throughout the world. The formation of the Bishop Hamlet diocese at Stoke-on-Trent is not premature. It is needed to set up the administration, which is ready for the present emergency. In the USA Archbishop Lewis is sensitive to the fact that there should not appear in this country to be an American takeover; we need to go to the Americans rather than that the Americans should come to us.
The chief need of the ACC is buildings. The Church of England has too many churches and therefore I hope that an accommodation can be reached. The Synod has not done its homework on the fate of churches whose congregations disagree with the Measure. A good starting point would be: who owns a church? At present there is no clear answer to that. Above all, the ACC needs a proper building in this country as a theological college and a general centre for traditional Anglicans. Holyrood is not working properly. It has a crash course of only two years, often for four ordinands. Other ordinands must take their instructions privately from their bishop, as was the case in the 18th century.
Furthermore, there is no proper theological college in this country for the Prayer Book. Following the introduction of the Prayer Book Protection Bill 1981, the bishops passed a resolution about the theological colleges. The debate, which took place in this House in 1987, showed that the bishops had not implemented their own recommendations. They could do so if they were so minded. Theological colleges are visited by bishops' inspectors and their reports could be published like those of schools' inspectors. If the bishops withdrew their recognition from the theological college, it would have to close. Sadly, the position here is unlikely to change.
A proper building is also needed by the ACC as a centre for traditional Anglicanism generally. Otherwise, 1041 meetings must take place in an hotel for which it might be difficult to find money. I hope that present plans will succeed and that we will find such a building in our old family home at Toddington in Gloucestershire. It has been lost to us for 100 years and therefore I can hardly have an interest to declare. The place is rich in history. In 1985 a public conference was held there. It lasted for four days and there were 18 speakers. The house is an important architectural monument and was personally designed by the first Lord Sudeley, who afterwards became chairman of the Commission for the Rebuilding of the Houses of Parliament and two similar buildings. Since 1985 Toddington has been in the hands of Saudi Arabians. They have left the house empty and do not know what to do with it. The ACC, as a friendly scholastic institution, would assure Toddington of its very best future.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Lord Charteris of Amisfield
My Lords, I must first declare an interest. If it were not for that interest I should not have presumed to intervene in a debate on a matter of such tremendous importance to the Church of England as the ordination of women. My interest is that I have the honour of being President of the Prayer Book Society. I wish to make it clear that I am expressing my personal views; I am in no way speaking as a representative or on behalf of the society.
I begin by declaring that I am in favour of the ordination of women for the excellent reasons which were expressed so eloquently by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford. My conviction that there is nothing that women cannot and should not do has not been uninfluenced by having had the great honour to serve a female Monarch for 40 years. However, I recognise that the issue is divisive in the Church.
The Prayer Book Society has some members who believe in the ordination of women and others who do not. They believe on the one side or the other with considerable passion. In their public statement—what is called the Grimsdyke Public Statement—the Prayer Book Society has been restrained and has managed not to come down too firmly on one side or the other. That is, except on one issue—the issue to express strongly the objection to the use of a canon which does not come before Parliament to achieve the desired ends. I am fairly ignorant about this matter but, as I understand it, the new canon, which I think is going to be C4B will, without altering the actual words of the Book of Common Prayer, allow it to be interpreted differently so that if one says "he" it may mean he or she and if one says "him" it may mean him or her. It is rather like putting an erratum slip in the Book of Common Prayer 300 years after its publication.
I am glad that there is no suggestion at present to alter the actual words of the Book of Common Prayer. I would mind terribly about that. I hope that that will not creep in later on. Anybody who loves the Prayer Book must fight violently against intrusive language; for example, we do not wish to have "Our parent who is in heaven", or anything like that.
1042 There is one further point which I wish to make with great humility. I have a feeling that at the bottom of the hearts of quite a lot of people who are bitterly opposed to the ordination of women is the fear of aggressive femininity. I share that view to a certain extent. However, generally speaking, I believe that women will make the most marvellous priests for the reasons which have already been expressed. I believe that to receive the sacrament from a woman would be absolutely perfect. But some women will be a bit uppity and the best protection against that uppitiness will be adherence to the Book of Common Prayer because it has a dignity of language and most wonderful prose. It is difficult to explain such matters. Nobody using the Book of Common Prayer could possibly behave improperly in any way. Let us hang onto it.
I believe that this matter has been rather hurried. I have a great deal of sympathy for the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Holderness, but after a great deal of thought I believe that it is better that we should go the whole hog straightaway.
§ 6.3 p.m.
The Earl of Clanwilliam
My Lords, it is rather daunting to follow the noble Lord, Lord Charteris. He sticks to his Prayer Book, and I am glad to say that I still have the Prayer Book that I was given at my First Communion in 1934 and I can still use it in my parish of Tisbury which has considerable trouble with the alternative services. I have even more trouble with them.
The most reverend Primate said that this matter is in some ways divisive but that it would be more divisive not to proceed with it. It is divisive, and it is not for the Church to be divisive in this way. Why should we fly in the face of ecumenical communion? After the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon had spoken, I felt that he had read my speech for me and I need say nothing further. However, I shall go on because the noble Lord, Lord Holderness, said—and I agree with him—that familiar landmarks are disappearing in the Church. Indeed, many of them seem to have been forgotten altogether.
This is not the moment to speak of moral values and the laxity in the country, which the Church should be addressing and which I believe it is not. However, as regards the ordination of women, I do not believe that women were meant to be priests and that deep in the heart of every churchman a small niggling doubt remains that we may be doing the wrong thing.
It is terrible that the Church should begin to behave a little like ICI, with golden handshakes for those whose spiritual convictions are deeply offended by the new Church which is being imposed upon them. My illustrious grandfather, who was the Bishop of Peterborough, is no doubt revolving rapidly in his grave, and I suspect that my grandmother is pushing him even harder. As a mere member of the congregation, I am appalled and horrified by this Measure. Ordained priests of the Anglican Communion are being deprived of their vocation, and that deprivation of spirituality cannot be recompensed with notes from the Bank of England.
1043 In a recent speech to the Anglican clergy—the most reverend Primate is having his Denver speech quoted to him yet again—he said (I stand to be corrected if I have taken his words out of context):A healthy Church does not need to keep examining her identity'".Suddenly, after 2,000 years we are examining that identity and we are having women priests. That seems to me quite wrong. Certainly for the past 20 or 30 years during which the subject of women priests has been discussed, it was thrown out of court immediately. It is only since the question of women's rights has come to the fore that this matter has been revived.
Indeed, one of the main arguments for women priests is the logic of comparing them to the professions where women are coming to the fore. They are doing magnificent work and are introducing an enormous degree of honour and morality among their male colleagues, many of whom deeply need to be helped in such matters. But I do not wish to receive the sacrament from a lawyer or an accountant. It is not what a priest is. A priest is of a different breed—indeed, a breed apart, as the noble Lord, Lord Runcie, said. To compare the Church with a business is monstrous. The argument of comparability certainly does not wash. It is an irrelevance. It clouds the issue of the main work of the Church.
At the same time, no one would deny that the work of women in the church is of unique and enormous importance, no less than that of a priest. It is special to them and can be likened to the role of the disciples and their descendants, and has been through the centuries. The argument of who was chosen has been well rehearsed and I shall not argue the point again. I merely adopt the point made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon, who spoke more clearly than I can on the issue.
To some degree it is a feminist related activity and not spiritual. Ardent anti-feminists—my wife allows me to include her in that category—are universally against the ordination of women. But they are the silent majority of women. I hesitate to mention this, but after the Synod had given its decision women waiting for ordination were standing in the streets swigging champagne from the bottle. It was a disgraceful sight and it is not behaviour one would expect of deacons awaiting ordination. We are at one: we do not need self-examination but rather the proclamation of the true faith and the teaching of moral values. Those values do not relate to the ordination of women.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Ripon
My Lords, perhaps I may begin by pointing out gently to the noble Earl, Lord Clanwilliam, that the speech with which he showed such agreement was that of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Sheffield and the speech of the right reverend Prelate Bishop of Ripon is now to come.
Perhaps I may also take issue with the noble Earl when he says that it is no part of the Church to be divisive. Conflict has always been part of the life of the Church of God. Indeed, it may be argued that the Church is most alive when it is in conflict. The New 1044 Testament depicts a Church in conflict over a. fundamental matter, the terms on which Gentiles should be admitted into the Church. Later centuries show equally sharp debate over the nature of God and the person of Christ. The reason for such conflicts is clear: that the Church is concerned with truth and that Christians do not always see truth in the same way.
The Church of England, as part of the universal Church of God, has also, in its past, known conflict over truth. One has only to read some of the debates of the 19th century concerning such matters as the literal truth of the Bible, to discover how sharp and deep those divisions went. I believe that the present debate is of such a kind. Clearly, it has been raised for us in the Church in the way in which society has moved on and in the fact that the place of women in society has come to be seen differently from previous centuries.
Therefore, the Church is required to ask the question: what part do women play in the life of our Church and its ministry? In answering the question, I believe that we should look—and here, perhaps, I may say, with respect, that I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley—not to the Prayer Book, but to a more universal and a more ancient tradition. We should look to the truth enshrined for us in the doctrine of the incarnation. The teaching of the universal Church is that, in Jesus Christ, divinity and humanity were brought together and that in that bringing together by God was achieved the salvation of all humanity. It is central to that teaching that the gender of Jesus is irrelevant. Men and women are saved through Christ for ever because he took human nature (not male human nature) upon himself. What is true for the doctrine of salvation—namely, that the gender of Jesus is irrelevant—must be true also in any doctrine of ordained ministry which, therefore, has to be inclusive of men and women. I find that argument both compelling and irresistible.
However, perhaps I may take up a point made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Sheffield. He asked: if we can change the teaching on ordained ministry in that way, what then can we not change? I would suggest one thing that we cannot change and it arises out of the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley. We cannot change the doctrine of the incarnation. It is upon that doctrine that I find myself standing in this debate.
However, I recognise that others do not believe as I do. For the moment, those of us who take the two views will have to live together in the one Church. Here, once again, I take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley. I suggest—and indeed the Church of England is following—a very different path from that which he outlined; namely, one in which those who hold the two views will strive to remain together.
In my view, there is a remarkable determination in the Church of England that we shall continue to live in the same Church. Therefore, I believe that we need to ask whether the Measure enables us to continue this common life. When the Measure was passing through the General Synod, I opposed Clause 2, which allows bishops in office at the time of the passing of the measure to make certain declarations which would effectively forbid the ministry of women ordained as priests in their dioceses. In fact, I moved that the clause 1045 should not stand part of the Measure, but I was defeated. I opposed the clause because I believed that, if the Measure was passed in that form, it would divide the Church of England into dioceses which accepted and those which did not accept the decision. Those clergy or laity who did not accept the decision could find safe haven for a while in no-go dioceses, but as new bishops were appointed without the power to make the declaration, such havens would shrink and eventually disappear. I argued that, from the beginning, the Church of England should be finding ways of enabling both groups—that is, those who agreed and those who disagreed—to live together.
I share with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London his distaste for Clause 2. However, it seems to me that matters have moved on since the clause was debated. It is clear that at least the bishops of the Church of England are determined to hold together. It is also becoming increasingly clear that most within the Church of England intend to remain within it.
There is no convention in your Lordships' House which enables those of us on these Benches to refer to our friends in the House. If there was, I would want to refer to my right reverend friends the Bishops of London and Southwark. Not so long ago we were all immediate neighbours in Yorkshire. In those days, together with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle, we met together to reflect upon the situation of the Church of England should the Measure be passed. Many of the ideas that we shared in those days have now become part of the common thinking, partly in the Act of Synod and partly in the pastoral letter which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London has issued. It has become clear that we are determined to move forward together and to find a way of structuring the Church so that those who are opposed to the Measure can find space within it.
I am well aware that, although there is this measure of trust among bishops, it is not universal in the Church of England. I have sat with clergy and lay people of my diocese, both individually and collectively, and I have listened to their profound hurt and anger, much of it directed towards me personally as a bishop who was in favour of the Measure. I have had to take on that anger myself. I realise that it is still around and within our Church.
I do not believe that trust will be built by the passing of further legislation. Legislation is only necessary when no trust exists. I believe that if trust is to be built, it will have to be done not by legislation nor indeed by words: it will only be done as the Church in its actions demonstrates that it means what it says. That will have a great deal to do with appointments, not only to those in senior positions but also to parochial appointments. I think that a great responsibility lies on us in the Church, not least upon the bishops, to match what we are saying in our words by the actions that we subsequently undertake.
The last occasion upon which the Church of England was divided so dramatically was, I would argue, over the issue of the Stuart succession. The divine right of kings to hold their thrones and to rule their people was 1046 held as a doctrine with great fierceness. Those who continued to hold that teaching, the non-jurors, left the Church of England, in those days without compensation. However, in these days of greater consideration towards opponents, opportunity and space to remain within the Church, together with proper compensation for those who feel compelled to leave, are provided. Therefore, I believe that the Measure provides a good way forward.
I have talked about conflict, the anger generated and the difficulties that we experience in handling that conflict. However, my final thought in relation to the Measure is not about that conflict but rather about the opportunities that it will provide. I believe that the enriched priesthood which we shall discover as women enter it will be of enormous benefit to the Church. With other right reverend Prelates, and other noble Lords, I also believe that it will be for the good of our Church. I urge your Lordships to pass the Measure.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Baroness Hilton of Eggardon
My Lords, I was very diffident last week about taking part in the debate and I feel even more diffident today in the face of the serried ranks of bishops before me. I am not a member of the Church of England nor of any other Church. However, I was persuaded last week by those who are deeply involved in such issues that the debate is also about the social fabric of our society and about giving equal value to all human beings within our society.
As the Church of England is the established Church of this country, its role is inevitably entwined with the role of Parliament and other pillars of our society. Its role is to set an example and to provide a model for the people of this country, as well as to carry out its more obvious religious duties. My ancestors include English Quakers, Irish Protestants, Catholic Lithuanians, Calvanist Scots and German Jews. I can therefore perhaps view the issue with some degree of objectivity.
The history of religion, and not just of the Christian religion, has been characterised by conflict, wars, crusades, persecution and massacres. Most of the religions, especially those originating in the Middle East, have been dominated by men. Some of the conflicts between different religions are still perpetuated in the world today, for example in the Middle East, Bosnia and Cyprus. I have to declare an interest as I was born in Cyprus. I feel that the conflicts might have been long since settled, because of the common ethnicity of the people who live there, if intermarriage had been possible. Such marriage was not, of course, possible because of the different religious faiths of the people.
Many of the most bitter conflicts in the history of Europe have occurred between different sections of Christianity which have attempted to impose their interpretation of Christian doctrine upon each other. There is the ferocity of the 13th century crusade against the Cathars, for example, where the indignation of orthodox Christianity was exacerbated by the alleged sexual practices of the Cathars. The noble Lord, Lord Soper, mentioned the anti-feminine bias of the Christian Church and I believe that that is exemplified in what I have just said.
1047 The Spanish Inquisition, the 16th century wars of religion in France and the present bitter tragedy of Northern Ireland are all examples of different factions of Christianity at war with each other. Incidentally, it is interesting to note that in Northern Ireland most of the politicians and terrorists are men whereas those in the peace movement tend to be women. That is perhaps a hopeful sign for Christianity as we move into the next century and women are encouraged to take a full part in the Christian Church in this country.
Those conflicts are extreme examples in comparison with the debate over the ordination of women which has been much more civilised and on the whole has been conducted with words and not swords. Nevertheless, the present conflict between different factions of the Church of England has some similarities with the wars of religion. There has been the stereotyping of opponents who have been considered not only misguided but also somehow morally inferior. There has been a tendency to elevate one's own supporters as morally superior and more enlightened. There have been bitterness and anger on both sides.
All of these aspects of the debate in many ways deny the complexity, subtlety and range of behaviour of which human beings are capable, whether we are Jews, Moslems, Catholics, Protestants, male or female. Whether a man or a woman will make a good or a bad priest—or for that matter a good or bad doctor or police officer, or in any other position in society—will surely depend on his or her personal qualities of compassion, courage and intelligence and not on some abstract formalism or simplified categorisation of race or gender. If the Church of England is to continue as an integral part of our greatly changed society and to go forward into the next century with confidence and with the unity that was mentioned by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, it has to accommodate the changed role and status of women in this country. In so doing it may perhaps be able to incorporate more of the female virtues of co-operation and compassion and less of the male qualities of ambition and respect for hierarchy. That is perhaps exemplified by the presence of the bishops here today.
That should lead to fewer conflicts between different parts of Christianity in future. Through making the best use of the qualities of all its members, male or female, the Church of England can provide a model for the rest of our society. Our country needs to be much less stratified by class, race and gender, and the Church of England has now embarked upon a course which can take us forward into the future and be an example to us all.
Like the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, I regret that we have a compromise Measure before us today and that women are not able to become bishops at present. However, I hope that in the near future further expression will be given to these principles by removing that bar to women. I therefore support the substantive Motion before the House.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ Lord Ashbourne
My Lords, I rise to support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Holderness. As there is a large number of speakers I shall endeavour to be brief and to weary your Lordships as little as possible. I have always taken the view that the ordination of women is a secondary rather than a primary issue. It seems to me that the primary role of the Church—in this I include, of course, the Church of England—is the faithful proclamation of the Gospel. It saddens me that it seems that during the past few months the Anglican Church has by and large been facing inwards rather than outwards. It has argued and debated earnestly and with great conviction and sincerity the subject of the ordination of women. Nevertheless this is an important matter and one that has generated a great deal of heat. It is important that right decisions are made and not wrong ones because right decisions lead to right results and wrong decisions lead obviously to wrong results.
I was delighted to hear the most reverend Primate in his opening address—which I thought was both balanced and authoritative—say that he would be glad to have this issue behind him to enable the Church to focus on its main task of proclaiming the Gospel. The Church, being a family of believers, should in the scriptural view have as the head and leader a man. Secular or business life does not have that need for spiritual responsibility to be exercised by a man and can just as ably be undertaken by a man or woman on the grounds of merit.
My main objection to the ordination of women is that it is contrary to scripture. Let us listen to God and not to men's or women's ideas or disappointments. There are a number of scriptures that are against women taking up leadership in the Church. Each of these can be reinterpreted by wrestling with their meaning in today's terms. However, I do not believe it is our task today to rewrite faith or to modify truth revealed by God through scripture.
The Bible is very clear that a man is the head of the family. That does not mean that the woman is second or second class, less spiritual or inferior in any way. Many women have wonderful ministries which they accomplish, in some cases far better than men. However, when it comes to leadership—spiritual leadership of a church—man, as the scriptures show, has been created to fulfil that responsibility, although he may sometimes be weak and not want it. In my view, if the House fails to vote decisively for the amendment, we will in due course look back on the decision to ordain women as a major error of judgment.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Baroness O'Cathain
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Ashbourne, I rise to support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Holderness. I fear that for many people the whole issue of the ordination of women has been taken out of the Church arena and become an equal opportunities issue, not, I hasten to add, by the members of the movement for the ordination of women but by the media and by the feminist movement. The equal 1049 opportunities movement has achieved much—a very great deal—but in my personal view it is not relevant in this issue. The espousal of the cause of the ordination of women by the media and the feminist movement is seen by some to lead to the imposition of secular trends on a religious matter.
In speaking against the Motion of the most reverend Primate and for the amendment I am representing nobody but myself—a committed and practising Christian—but I know that there are very many people in the Church of England who are as deeply troubled as I am about this issue and who feel, as I do, that it has been decided without sufficient account being taken of the views of those opposed to it. The decision of the Synod last November pleased many people but it also caused enormous distress to many others. I have heard it said that the decision will have the effect of making the Church of England inclusive; namely, that nobody would now be excluded. Sadly, I do not believe this is so.
The decision of the Synod results in many people being excluded, including those Christians who cannot accept the decision on theological grounds; those men who have been ordained into the Church of England and who now cannot subscribe to this fundamental change; and those young men who are currently considering whether to pi forward for ordination but who are unable to envisage a situation where their basic adherence to the tradition of the Church is being undermined. This does not add up to an "inclusive" Church. It is difficult to understand why the Synod was willing to go beyond the authority which has pertained for years.
As a practising Christian I must confess that the Synod used to appear an irrelevance to my Christian life but now it has become much more than just a talk shop. It has taken a decision in my name which deeply upsets me. I dare say that if I had been sufficiently interested I could have voted for my Synod representative, but the matter always seemed to go through on the nod at the annual parochial church council meeting—and how many of us go to them? I guess that my opportunity to influence the Church of England has gone by default. I am sure that it is too late to change the Synod's decision, but it is a salutary lesson to many of us: be sure that your Synod representatives know your views.
I object to the Synod's decision on four grounds: from my study of the Bible, the traditional aspects, the ecumenical issue and on the basis that the whole issue is a huge distraction from the much more important matters on which the Church should be giving a lead. It is for those reasons that I support the amendment.
From my personal study of the Bible I find it hard to believe the suggestion made by the supporters of the movement for the ordination of women to the effect that society was so male-dominated in Christ's day that he could not appoint a woman to a position of leadership within His church. Christ upended all conventions. Why would He have hesitated at that—unless He just did not wish women to be leaders in the Church?
Christ spent a great deal of time with women. He valued them; He healed them; He taught them, as no rabbi would; He evangelised them; and He appeared 1050 first to a woman after His death and sent her to be a witness to the disciples. No woman could be a witness in a Jewish court at that time, but Christ upended that convention and asked a woman to be a witness. He went out of His way to be with women, but He did not name a woman as an apostle.
Paul has often been accused of being a misogynist. I do not believe that that is true. Nine of the 26 people he specifically mentions in Romans 16 who helped him greatly were women. He recognised the great work done by women in those early years of Christianity, but he did not state that they should be leaders in the Church.
The strongest argument of all from my reading of the Gospels is the knowledge that the authority of the Church comes from God through His Son—the Son of God, not the daughter of God. Men and women stand as equals before God, but both are given different responsibilities by God, which have nothing to do with superiority or inferiority. The New Testament emphasises that there is to be complementary harmony between them both in the home and in the Church. The Bible uses masculine language for God because that is how God revealed Himself. Let us not forget that the biblical Christian faith is a revealed religion.
The structure of the early developing Church did not ignore the great contribution being made, and to be made, by women. The structure is clear—bishops, priests and deacons. Bishops were the direct link from the apostles and had the responsibility to represent that same faith to the contemporary world. As the Christian community grew in numbers the bishops were physically unable to minister to all the community, so they ordained men to whom they delegated their authority—the authority which in turn they had received in direct line from the apostles.
Deacons had a specific role in the Church: a ministry of service, caring for the poor and needy, the pastoral care of others, assisting with the liturgy and being of unique service to the ordained ministry. Women were created deacons, and their contribution was greatly valued. It was not regarded as being subservient, just different. There is no evidence whatsoever that women were admitted to the ordained ministry as represented by the episcopate or the presbyterate. That is the tradition of the Church. That is the tradition which the Synod's decision of last November now wishes to throw out.
The feminine is very well assimilated into the Christian tradition, but it is never confused with or regarded as a substitute for the masculine. I do not believe that sufficient reason has been given for this change.
From the ecumenical standpoint the vote by the General Synod to ordain women will, according to a report issued following the April Conference of the Roman Catholic Bishops:change our relationship with the Church of England, adding a real obstacle to our hopes for unity".One of the principal sadnesses is that the Church of England went out on its own on this issue without the agreement of the rest of the Christian Church.
Finally, I turn to my point concerning distraction. To me it seems almost incomprehensible that the 1051 established Church, the Church of England, which must give a lead in our society, is involved in such internal controversy at a time when its influence on society as a whole was never more essential. For over two years I suspect that a great majority of the population has thought that the sole issue of concern to the Church in this country has been the ordination of women. At a time of acknowledged falling moral standards, a frightening increase in divorce rates and a deeply worrying increase in violence it seems that the Church's voice on those matters is a mere whisper by comparison with the debate concerning the ongoing problems of the ordination of women.
Several Members of your Lordships' House had a unique opportunity last week to listen to a paediatrician and a child psychiatrist describing the effect on young children of the violence they view on television. Two statements made by those experts have haunted me ever since: first, it has been estimated that children spend on average 27 hours per week watching television; and, secondly, and frighteningly, by the time a child has reached the age of 14 he or she will have seen some 11,000 murders on television. That is horrifying information, and the Church should surely be taking a strong line in bringing those facts to the attention of all. But, no, it is too involved in the controversy surrounding the ordination of women.
Feeble, weak Christians like me look to the Church for guidance as to how to conduct our lives as good Christians. Such guidance is hard to find. Is that why lay Bible study groups are sprouting up all over the country? However, there is plenty of guidance about the ordination of women. The moral lead on all other issues seems to be going by default. The vacuum will be filled. I dread to think how.
I have deliberately not concentrated on the genuine wants and needs of many women who desperately wish to be ordained. Points on their behalf have been made by most of the speakers in this debate. Please do not think that I have no sympathy for them. I have, and I recognise that their plight has been an intolerable one. However, this measure goes only part of the way towards solving their plight. As has been said many times, the Measure does not provide for ordained women priests to become bishops. Eventually that new plight of ordained women priests who wish to become bishops will come before us, and will no doubt be dealt with sympathetically.
However, the plight of those who firmly believe that for theological, traditional and ecumenical reasons the ordination of women is wrong is also worthy of sympathy. That is why I have taken part in this debate today.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, as one of the 11 Baronesses who wrote a letter to The Times in early November last year urging acceptance of the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure on 11th November I felt that it was only right that I should speak in support of the Measure today. Those 11 Baronesses came from every party in the House and from the Cross-Benches. I am glad that six of them will have spoken by the end of the debate.
1052 We urged that the matter of the ordination of women, about which legislation had first been brought forward 20 years ago and which had been discussed for more than 70 years, should finally be settled so that women would be able to take their full place as members of the priesthood. It seemed wrong that the matter should be taking up such an inordinate amount of time when there were so many other worrying and distressing things going on in the world. As we said in our letter:To spend still more time and resources on this issue must convey to the world at large a curious message of the Church's priorities. The world, in widespread confusion and distress, urgently needs the mission of the Church, but that mission is limited and handicapped by the exclusion of women from the ministry".For many members of the general public with real good will towards the Church the relief was great when the two-thirds majority was reached on 11th November.
A number of people have asked why MPs and Peers, who may be of different faiths or no faith at all, should be expected to be involved in discussing these Measures. I have heard a number of colleagues say that they saw no reason to take part because it was riot their affair. The answer is that as the law stands it is their affair and they are involved, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford said. It is essential for both Houses, guided by the Ecclesiastical Committee, which found the Measures expedient, to declare themselves in support and to pass the Measures in the same way as we perform our other legislative duties. Therefore, I was relieved to hear that, although the matter was discussed on a Friday, when attendance is usually low, the other place voted in favour. Two hundred and fifteen Members took part and there was a large majority of 194.
I hope that a large number of Peers will show their sense of responsibility today and stay to vote in favour of the Measures if the noble Lord, Lord Holderness, decides to proceed to a vote.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, to paraphrase Macaulay, the catholic and apostolic Church has seen the Flavian sacrifice in the amphitheatres of Rome; arid it has seen the fall of communism in Russia. It is an organisation that is longer and older that anything else on earth. It is also an organisation which suffers from the difficulties of being a monotheistic Church which automatically states that any other faith must: be in the wrong. That is the definition of monotheism—that Jewish certainty. That organisation has then had laid upon the top of it Greek intellectualism and the arguments of the nature and substance of Christ. Those arguments have continued for years. I refer to the heresies of Arius and of Nestoris; and to the modern heresies produced by one of the distinguished Members of your Lordships' House that the virgin birth did not take place. That argument was first produced by Bishop Eusebius in either Hippo or Carthage in 283 AD. He was allowed to continue in his see, according to the great Edward Gibbon, only because of the tolerance of his superior who was also of either Hippo or Carthage—(I cannot remember which way round it was).
1053 The Church of England is part of that holy, catholic and apostolic Church because it revolted quite reasonably and correctly against the overriding ambition of the bishops of Rome. It was Gregory VII who changed his title from Vicar of the Romans to Vicar of Christ. He humiliated Henry at Canossa and produced the authoritarian certainty of Rome. It was the fight of Rome to avoid at all possible costs another General Council of the Church. At Constance the then Pope (whose name for the moment escapes me) had signed up to the authority of general councils and then repudiated the matter the moment he returned to Rome.
With respect to the most reverend Primate, it is important that the Church of England stays part of the catholic and apostolic Church. I believe that his dismissal of that argument was the weakest part of a very good case which he put forward, even though I do not agree with it. I shall not vote tonight because the Measure will obviously go through. Christianity has been troubled with schism after fight. Let us consider the old believers in Russia. It was stated that the bishops either had to give their two-finger blessing to signify the dual nature of Christ, or the three-finger blessing to signify the Holy Trinity. (I can never remember which way round it was.) However, those who believed in the blessing with two fingers were torn to pieces on the rack rather than give the three-finger blessing. History is full of Christian intolerance. Therefore I shall not vote against the Measure today. However, I believe that the Church of England makes a grave error in divorcing itself from the remainder of the catholic and apostolic Church.
Since my time in this House, the Church of England has shed its bible, the Book of Common Prayer, and now has altered its priesthood. It cannot continue to change with every whim. The Church then makes a mistake about changing its priesthood. It states that women can be only partial priests: they cannot be bishops. Is that because the Church has a vision of the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, taking Holy Orders and becoming a bishop? That would even tempt me to be in favour of that movement.
The Church of England has taken a dangerous step which would be correct if the remainder of the holy, catholic and apostolic Church were to take the same step. However, I find myself deeply perturbed by the Measure.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Chichester
My Lords, I hesitated a great deal when deciding whether to attend today to take part in the debate. I hesitated because I am not sure about the propriety of a Member of the House of Bishops opposing in this House an issue which the Synod has decided in the way that it has. However, I believe it right that Members of your Lordships' House should hear the reasons for our actions from those of us who are Members of this House and who voted against the legislation in the Synod. I shall probably abstain from the final vote tonight.
I have followed the debate for a long time. I spoke in the Synod debate in 1975 to which reference has been 1054 made. I am clear that arguments on equal opportunity and all such secular considerations are not relevant to the issue. There is one fundamental question. Does the tradition that the Church has held from our Lord's time that the Christian ministerial priesthood is male rest simply on cultural circumstances, or does it relate to the divine creation of the two distinct sexes, the incarnation of Christ as a man, and the bearing of those considerations on the nature of the ministerial priesthood. Is the inclusive argument correct?
The long discussions on the issue, and the many volumes written about it, underline the importance of those questions throughout the Christian world. Those arguments come from many different quarters. The importance is recognised in the report of the House of Bishops on the matter. Such fundamental questions cannot be rightly settled by any one part of the Christian Church alone, least of all by a part as small as the Church of England. We are a small body in relation to Christendom as a whole. Those questions can be settled only by ecumenical agreement. I emphasise that by that I do not mean the Pope; nor do I refer to the General Council. I believe that if the discussion continued it would become clear in time whether there was a general agreement throughout the Christian world that such a change was right. It is a matter of truth; and it is a matter in which truth and unity go hand in hand. I do not believe that one can rightly pre-empt that decision by deciding to act now.
This is not a happy time in which to be a bishop, least of all in a diocese which voted against the legislation and in which the majority of the clergy is clearly opposed to it, and a large number of the laity too. I have already lost two good young priests. I know that more will go as soon as the Canon has been promulged. I know that others who are delaying in making up their minds are unhappy and undecided about what they should do. At almost every parish gathering that I attend, after a service some lay person will come to me and express his distress, saying, "What can you do to help us?". I try to explain what the House of Bishops seeks to do in the proposed Act of Synod. The House of Bishops is grateful for the leadership that the two Archbishops have given us.
My great fear relates to the timing of this debate. I wish that it could have been left until after the Synod. We know that there is opposition to the Act of Synod. I fear that the passing of this Motion by both Houses of Parliament at this time will strengthen the opposition, and that many will say: "It is now all safely through Parliament. We do not have to bother any more". That may be unfair to many of them, but I am afraid that there is a serious truth in it, as many of us will know. I shall vote for the amendment. If that is lost, I shall abstain on the main Motion.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Lord Howell
My Lords, I must first apologise for absenting myself for half an hour, during which I had to chair a meeting in another part of this building. I am particularly sad to have missed the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London; but I am 1055 delighted to find that he has obviously impressed the House on all sides, whatever view is taken of this matter.
I rise to speak with some trepidation and much humility. Like my noble friend Lord Glenamara, I do not think, with great respect to the Bench of Bishops, that questions of theology should be entirely left to them; or indeed to the General Synod. I have no great expertise in matters of theology. I have a little more in respect of politics; and it is the other side of the question—namely, the democracy of the Church of which I am a member—that I wish to address. I am encouraged to speak by the words of Archbishop William Temple—words which I have always held rather dear—when he said that God's greatest gift to man was that of individual free will. That means that I cannot allow the Synod or the Bench of Bishops to do my thinking for me. I must do my own thinking. Hence I decided to participate in this debate.
On the question of democracy, the most reverend Primate gave us overwhelming evidence in the figures that he cited in relation to the support for this Measure in the three houses: the House of Bishops; the House of Clergy; and the House of Laity. I believe therefore that the Church is perfectly entitled to proceed with this Measure.
Although I want to do everything that I possibly can in great charity to help those who will not accept this Measure, it might be said that the Church has perhaps gone further than most people would have thought it ought to go—and certainly further than most other professions or people working and finding themselves redundant at this point in time would expect in their own employment. That is regrettable. I am glad that the Church is going that extra distance—though we can hardly expect the Church to provide continuous and ongoing support, particularly to members of the clergy who might wish to join another denomination. That would seem to be incongruous.
I listened with great interest to the moving speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester. Obviously he is very concerned in his conscience about this matter and where he should go. At least the right reverend Prelate did not fall into the error of Mr. John Selwyn Gummer, who raises my ire more and more on these matters, as well as on normal political matters. Mr. Gummer has taken up the habit of using Parliament as a court of appeal in regard to judgments of the Synod in which he has participated. I have a slight objection to that. I remember that he did so in relation to the clergy ordination Measure when I served in another place. I thought that his tactical approach to those questions left a great deal to be desired. He now says that if we pass this Measure, we shall be excluding him from the Church. From this side of the House—noble Lords will not mind if I say so—he sounds like a member of the Militant Tendency. That is the argument used by members of that group when they cannot get their way in the Labour Party. I have no doubt that if he were a member of this side of the House instead of that side, his position would be such that he would become a member of the Militant Tendency, and create the disturbances about which we know.
1056 I move rapidly on to the theology of the matter, as I see it. I have thought about this a great deal. Indeed, in my church we discussed it, and in my diocese in Birmingham we took votes. After much thinking, we reached a decision. With great respect to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Sheffield, who also made a very fine speech, the biggest argument used in my church was the argument that he used; namely, that Jesus appointed disciples, and they were all men. That is a point that was recently made to Peers.
I wish that people would face up to the logic of that statement. What was our Lord doing when he took the cup, drank from it and said:this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me".He was addressing an audience composed entirely of men. Are we to assume that he was excluding half the population from taking Communion? That is the logic of that argument. If one says that the Lord appointed only men as disciples, one has to face the fact that at that time he offered the cup, and drank from the cup, with men alone. I do not believe that that argument stands up. We know possibly why there were no women present: it was because of the nature of society at that time.
We have to look at the law and the position of women in the Bible. What are we to make of Mary Magdalene? Are we to say that she was less than the disciples? She may well have been superior to most of the disciples. Indeed, I believe that one of the Gospels which is not printed in the Bible (an apocryphal gospel) may suggest that she was in fact a disciple.
What are we to make of the fact that at the Crucifixion it was Mary Magdalene and Mary, the sister of Christ's Mother, who were there throughout his agony, when (I have to say) most of the men seem to have departed. Therefore, in my thinking, the women come out of this with enormous credit.
At the Resurrection, to whom did our Lord declare himself? Again, it was to women. It was to Mary Magdalene in the first instance. To me that is an argument of a very compelling nature. Our Lord was either saying that these women were equal as disciples; or perhaps he was saying that they were even superior to the disciples whom he had appointed.
If we look at the story of Mary and Martha, it was quite uncommon at that time for any woman, since women would normally have been veiled, to be sitting being taught at the feet of the Lord. If we put all these points together, they are of tremendous significance in respect of the witness and the place of women in the Church.
I should like to give one practical reason why I hope this Measure goes through. I have a flat in Cornwall. I am sorry that the Bishop of Truro is not yet a Member of this place. I do not wish to criticise him in his absence, although as I understand it he would not support this Measure. In one of the parishes where I often go to church when I am on holiday he had had a lot of trouble finding a priest. He finally came upon a lady deacon, a very splendid lady who has almost trebled the congregation and who does a first class job, to general acclaim. As I understand it, she can serve the sacraments but she cannot bless them. She has to get a retired priest from the next parish to come and bless the 1057 sacraments so that she can serve them on the following Sunday. It is a nonsense. As I understand it, the only difference between a priest and a deaconess is that she is not allowed to bless the sacraments which she is allowed to serve. I put to the House that that is absolute nonsense. Certainly it is in my view.
Therefore I support this Measure, although I have two reservations about it. However, I believe that we have to reach a consensus or compromise. I take the point about women bishops and also the point (on which I feel even more strongly) about whether bishops who do not approve of the Measure will be allowed not to ordain women or appoint women in their dioceses. That worries me considerably.
I hope that the right reverend Prelates on the Bishops Bench will give those two matters their further consideration. Despite my reservations, I agree that we have to reach consensus and a compromise. We must move on. I hope that the House will give this Measure its full support.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Lord Teviot
My Lords, at this stage of the debate I feel, as the longest serving member of the Joint Parliamentary Ecclesiastical Committee, that there are still a few matters to spell out. Before I do so, I declare that I support this Measure wholeheartedly.
Many of your Lordships both spiritual and temporal have reminded the House of how the Measure has overcome all hurdles in the General Synod. All Measures, like this one, start there. Then, when a measure has a special type of doctrinal significance it is voted on in the diocesan synod. In this case the Measure also went to the deanery synods, to which every parish can send a representative. It was also voted on there. Although the clergy and laity discuss the matter together, they vote separately. Throughout almost the whole of the country this Measure had very widespread support. The final figures in the General Synod were even more convincing.
My next and only remaining point is that, like other members of the committee, I received about a thousand letters. Many of them were of a statistical nature. But of most significance were those from parishes in which there was a woman deacon. All those letters stated firmly how happy those parishioners were. I did not receive one single negative comment.
Furthermore, I discussed the matter with the bishop, who told me that in his experience as a diocesan bishop he knew of many dyed-in-the-wool anti-woman parishioners who had humbly eaten their words and said how successful and enjoyable it was to have a woman deacon in their parish. I urge your Lordships to support the most reverend Primate in this Motion and sadly disagree with my noble friend Lord Holderness.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Lady Saltoun of Abernethy
My Lords, as a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee, I am glad to have this opportunity to pay tribute to the masterly chairmanship of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Templeman, whom I am glad to see in the Chamber. He 1058 had a very difficult task, which he carried out with great courtesy and fairness. I should also like to pay tribute to the clerks, who coped with a vast extra workload caused by the deluge of letters with which the committee was inundated, and those who recorded the proceedings, which at times must have been most confusing.
Ever since I became involved with the question of the expediency of passing these Measures, I have considered that the majority of arguments in favour of doing so were at best shaky and at worst frivolous and invalid. There was one exception, and that is an argument which has not been used by its proponents: that the calibre of male would-be ordinands coming into the Church was so low that it was becoming difficult to maintain an adequate level of ministry and an adequate standard of ministry. Therefore it was necessary to seek recruits from a sex which the immortal Miss Jenkins of Cranford considered to be far superior. That, I believe to be the only sensible reason for deeming the ordination of women to be expedient.
The majority of the arguments against the Measures seem to me to be valid and unanswerable. I shall not rehearse them all. I want to concentrate on the safeguards for those who hold orthodox Anglican views, because I am concerned that those safeguards will be short lived. If they were to be enshrined in a Measure which could not be repealed without the approval of both Houses of Parliament, I should be happier. But they are not. They are to be enshrined only in an Act of Synod, which can be amended or rescinded at any time by a simple majority in the General Synod. Since we have no real guarantee that diocesan bishops who are opposed to the ordination of women will continue to be appointed, we wonder how long it will be before there is not one single bishop in the Church of England who does not support the ordination of women and who can therefore act as a provincial episcopal visitor to those who do not. Even for so long as there are such bishops, they will not, as provincial visitors, have a voice in the House of Bishops. As I understand it, they will only be able to attend bishops' meetings.
When the Ecclesiastical Committee interviewed the Legislative Committee of the General Synod on 5th July and various members pressed the most reverend Primates the Archbishops of Canterbury and of York on the question of why they were prepared to support an Act of Synod but not a complementary Measure, it emerged very strongly that there was no guarantee that even the proposed Act of Synod would definitely be enacted; and that a Measure would be likely to have a very rough ride indeed, suffering amendment on the way and far from sure of a safe passage to the end of the journey. I am sure that that is true because I believe that there are some bishops who have said openly that for people who cannot accept the ordination of women the proper course to take is to leave the Church.
I understand that only the week before last, on radio and television, a woman—I do not know who she was, whether she was a member of the Synod or of the Movement for the Ordination of Women, or of both or neither, because I myself did not see the programme—said that her bishop had said that anyone who did not like it should get out. I interviewed a clergyman last 1059 weekend for a living of which I am patron. He thought that the safeguards went far too far and should only apply to the present generation. With such pressures, I am afraid that it will not be very many years before an Act of Synod, if one is passed, will be rescinded.
I myself asked the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury whether it was envisaged that the Act of Synod would operate in perpetuity or whether it would be in the nature of a temporary measure which would cease to operate at some future date. He replied that it was the intention that it should be permanent and that they were not thinking of rescinding it or anything like that. Then he added the caveat, "with the goodwill of the House of Bishops". He went on to say that of course anything could happen in the future.
That is just the trouble. The fact is that the safeguards should have been incorporated in the Measure for the ordination of women. I feel that the General Synod underestimated the strength of the opposition to the Measure and thought that it would get it through with only such safeguards as are in Clause 2. I believe that it became clear to them that the majority of the members of the Ecclesiastical Committee, even many of them who supported the ordination of women, were concerned as to the efficacy of those safeguards and felt that they might be faced with an adverse vote in the committee. They produced the Manchester Declaration Mark II and the proposed Act of Synod very quickly. I am cynical enough to suspect that that was done out of necessity in order to get the Measure through Parliament and that, had the Ecclesiastical Committee in general not expressed such concern at the unfairness with which it was proposed to treat orthodox clergy and members of the Church, nothing would have been done at all.
In any event it was made clear to us that all we could do was to trust that all would be well. The difficulty is not that we distrust the intentions of the most reverend Primate; it is that we doubt his ability to deliver. I find it difficult to trust too when an assurance in which trust was placed, given by a previous Archbishop, that the Prayer Book would continue to be used in the parishes, has been more honoured in the breach than in the observance. It is now extremely difficult to find a simple Prayer Book service anywhere, even in London where, 15 years ago, there was a choice within walking distance wherever one lived.
It is because we trusted before and have been let down that we now feel, in the interests of a fair deal for those who cannot accept what they see as a radical doctrinal change, that we must have the safeguards entrenched in law. That is why I shall support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Holderness.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, the noble Lady always holds the attention of the House and on this occasion she possesses two qualifications which I do not. The first I have never possessed—she is a woman. The second I have not possessed for 53 years—she is an active member of the Church of England.
When I approached this question I recalled the story of the late Lord Attlee on his first visit to a Labour Party meeting. He noticed that all the gentlemen were wearing 1060 beards and said to his brother, "I hope I don't need a beard to belong to this show". Apparently the answer was that he did not. I hope therefore that, not wearing a beard—not being a member of the Church of England—I shall be allowed to participate. After all, the Church of England is the established Church of this country, and long may it remain so. As Cardinal Newman said, it is a famous bulwark against infidelity. That being so I believe that every citizen and every Member of Parliament, in this House or the other, has a right and possibly a duty to offer a few thoughts.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, I am glad that somebody agrees with me. I certainly do not speak in any representative capacity. My religious leader in this House, the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, would be horrified if he thought that I was speaking on behalf of any Church, including his and mine. I speak as an individual citizen, a member of this House. I speak also as an unrepentant feminist. I read an article in the Evening Standard today headed, "Is feminism a dead duck?". I do not know whether or not feminism is becoming a dead duck, but I remain an unrepentant feminist. I do not mean that in every possible respect, however. Extreme feminists come out against all kinds of things, including being in favour of abortion. Therefore I am not a blind feminist but an unrepentant one; one who believes that all men and women are equal in the sight of God and should be so treated in human affairs.
I was biased by my experience of anti-feminists. When I first came to this House I remember being taken aside by a distinguished old fellow. He said to me, "You must realise that it is impossible that this House will ever be open to women". Of course, women had sat in the other House for many years. He said, "What would we do about the lavatories? Suppose we were in the Library and they came in. Would we have to get up? My dear boy, the thing is not on". That was how I was met when I first came here.
Eventually four women were admitted. One of them I am glad to say—the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot—is still with us, but the story I shall tell does not refer to her; it refers to one of the others. I said to the Leader of the Opposition—a distinguished admiral—after that lady had been with us for some little while, "Do you not think that that lady is doing a good job?". He paused and said with deep feeling, "When I see that long neck bending over I wish I had my chopper and I would go chop, chop, chop", suiting the action to the words. The House may not believe that. But that represented the anti-feminism which was dominant for so many years in this much revered Chamber. So, one might say, I approach the matter with a little bias.
I turn to the great question. I shall not spend more than a few minutes. I listened to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester, who is so much revered throughout the whole of Sussex, where I too live. But if one had not listened to him one would still realise the convictions involved here. I agree with the general line taken on such matters by my noble friend Lord Howell. I can give another illustration. We are 1061 familiar with all the bishops, of course, but possibly not with every layman except an ecclesiastical layman like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham. We are all familiar with such eminent scriptural scholars. While at Eton the noble and learned Lord won the school divinity prize and will therefore know what I am about to say.
In St. Matthew's gospel—curiously enough only in St. Matthew's but we do not have time to bring in comparative studies—we are told that 5,000 men were fed, not counting women and children. That is how women were looked at; they did not count. I commend that simple example to illustrate how things have changed beyond all recognition, as my noble friend Lord Howell pointed out.
Men with deeply felt convictions like the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester will not be moved by passing remarks of that kind. I can only hope therefore that they will find peace and happiness within the Church of England under the new arrangements. I very much hope so. If any of them decide to join my Church—again I speak without any trace of authority—the Roman Catholic Church, I am sure that they will receive as warm a welcome as I did half a century ago.
Opinions in the Roman Catholic Church today—I speak mostly of England and do not profess to have a worldwide knowledge—are very much divided. Not long ago I spent the evening in a Roman Catholic monastry and we got into an argument on this subject. I was arguing for women priests and the monks were arguing against it. Finally I got a little desperate and said, "What is the argument against women priests?" They all looked at the senior monk. He paused, smiled and said, "Trad, I suppose". I suppose that is an argument that is thought to be extremely powerful. No one who cares for any institution, including this one, but certainly anyone who cares for his Church will ignore the importance of tradition. But traditions develop. Cardinal Newman was the first to speak of this in his famous essay on the development of doctrine. It would never have occurred to me when I joined the Roman Catholic Church that we would have had Vatican II or the tremendous developments that have occurred since that time. Who knows, therefore, how things will be a few years from now? I can only record my opinion, for what it is worth, that within 20 years women priests will be accepted within the Roman Catholic Church. I may be quite wrong but I can only offer my own conviction. It would certainly be true if it were confined to England. Taking the world scene I can only offer that opinion without trying to be dogmatic.
I conclude by offering genuine sympathy for those who find the Measure hard to bear and greet it with disquiet, even anguish. Nevertheless, I shall certainly vote for it and hope that it will bring strength and inspiration to the established Church of this country.
§ 7.19 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Southwark
My Lords, one of the slight problems of being Irish is that it is very difficult to fail to rise to a bait that is given in a debate 1062 such as this. During the past half hour certain baits have been offered, and I must depart from my prepared speech for a few moments to respond to them.
I have spent my ministry in Ireland and in the diocese of Bradford trying to reject stereotyping and when I hear it in your Lordships' House I cannot fail to try to reject it as well. The Church of England has not thrown out the Bible, or the Prayer Book, or the priesthood. In the diocese of Bradford, which I left two years ago, I carried out a survey. Sixty per cent. of churches still used the Book of Common Prayer. I know that many of your Lordships who go to church on Sunday endeavour to find, and do find, a church that has a Prayer Book service.
The Church has not jettisoned or thrown out the Bible. Many of my colleagues on these Benches have just returned from Canterbury, where the most reverend Primate the Archbishop was this morning consecrating a new bishop. Part of the vow that the new bishop has to take is that his life and ministry will be formed and reformed by the scriptures. Every time I ordain a man or a woman, exactly the same question is put to them. Every Sunday when I teach or when I preach or when I confirm, I do so on the basis of the scriptures, and I encourage those who listen to me to do exactly the same thing. It is simply not good enough to say that the Church of England has thrown out the Bible, the Prayer Book and the priesthood. It is not true.
Nor is it true to say that Bishops—it may be second or third hand—are saying that if you cannot accept this Measure—
The Earl of Clanwilliam
My Lords, the right reverend Prelate says that the Church has not thrown out the Prayer Book. But it has changed the Bible and the Prayer Book. They are different. We have the Alternative Service Book. We do not have the service using the Prayer Book.
§ The Lord Bishop of Southwark
My Lords, we still have the Prayer Book and we have the Alternative Service Book. Both are used in our churches.
It has also been said that bishops might be saying that if one does not agree with the ordination of women the only proper procedure is to get out. The Members on these Benches today represent the House of Bishops, which has publicly declared its determination to stay together not only for the sake of the Church but for the sake of the mission to the nation. The pain expressed by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London and by others who have spoken from these Benches is the pain of trying to create and hold together unity. It is not the pain of excluding people. It is the pain of drawing their pain into oneself in order that they may be held together.
Nor is it true to suggest that the Church has been so preoccupied during the past two or 20 years with the ordination of women that it has not been getting on with its main task. That also is not true. I could take noble Lords into the 110 inner city parishes in Southwark where, metaphorically speaking, both men and women ministers daily get their hands soiled with ministering in those very difficult areas; women deacons who have been mugged on their way home from evening service; women deacons who have had their jaws broken by 1063 drunken beggars coming to the door. Please do not tell us that we do not know what is out there in the world and that we are whispering or are silent. The evidence in my experience and in my diocese is that that is not true.
Perhaps I may gently correct a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, when she spoke about London being the most difficult area for the ordination of women to the priesthood. I remind the House that the diocese of Southwark includes a large part of the City of London. It was one of my predecessors who put down the original Motion that went to General Synod in 1975 for the ordination of women to the priesthood, and he did so fully supported by his synod.
Most of my time has been used up answering statements that have been made in the House. I shall end with two points. First, by the very nature of the case, the one voice that we have not heard in our debate is the voice of one of those 1,000 female deacons who have been waiting, some of them for 20 years, for ordination. Several noble Lords and noble Baronesses have attempted to mirror their feelings by saying that they know how it feels to wait. The truth of the matter is that we do not. Let me give the House one authentic voice from one of those non-stipendiary female deacons in the diocese of Southwark who is also a medical doctor. This is how she described the experience of waiting:The waiting time is a kind of waiting to give birth. My priesthood is like a child conceived within me many years ago, and strangely I wait for permission for this child to be delivered. Time has elapsed—and while I have been waiting to be told it is time to give birth, it is as if the baby has somehow been born for I hear those I serve tell me often 'You are a priest … you are our priest!' and my heart tells me this is true. I am being a priest already in all but the sacramental functions which the Church tells me it is illegal to perform. When I am with the dying, hearing their confession, or when I have spent hours listening to the story of someone whose shame and guilt makes confession to a man impossible, then by my very self (whether I give formal absolution or not) I am somehow embodying God's acceptance and channelling forgiveness—and this embodiment seems to them to be the absolution they have been seeking. I see it happening before my eyes. So the waiting is the more strange—for I am waiting to be told, in the eyes of the official Church, that t am that which others already find me to be!My Lords, it is that kind of patience, that kind of perception, that kind of loyalty in the face of apparent rejection, that convinces me that there is something embodied in the lives of women clergy; something in the way a woman experiences God that will not only complement the masculine qualities already embodied in male clergy but, more importantly and biblically, bear witness to the female qualities that there are in God. It is for this reason that I believe that the priesthood of the Church will be enriched by the ordination of women.
I wish to make one other point which I believe is an important one. In the months since the vote in General Synod and throughout this debate much attention has been focused upon our fears for the Church. Certainly the ordination of women to the priesthood will indeed pose new challenges to our ability to understand and to work together across huge differences of belief. But, if I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, the answer is not to split apart and go our separate ways. These challenges are in themselves opportunities to live out the very message that is at the heart of the Christian gospel and which is the crux of the purpose and meaning of our Christian belief. The Church is in the business of 1064 reconciliation. She is called to struggle with the paradoxes and contradictions of division and difference. Her task in this situation is the same. It is to find ways of meeting each other across our divisions without dissolving them or negating their pain. Her task is to be a sign to the world that such an endeavour is possible.
In the Diocese of Southwark—and I am sure it is true elsewhere in the Church—the debate has already produced new groupings among Christians. Even where these have come together to oppose or support a particular stance, they have in themselves allowed new relationships and new unities to emerge.
Perhaps more important still have been the groups that have come together from positions of strongly held difference in order to hear and listen to each other's points of view. There is a growing feeling of mutual respect coupled with a determination to stay and work together for the sake of the mission of the Church.
These are clear and unmistakable signs that the Church is being able to live out, within this new situation, its fundamental purpose to heal, to reconcile and to enable growth to happen in new and unexpected ways even, and perhaps especially, out of the pain of conflict and change.
That is a message which many parts of our nation and our world, particularly my own homeland, needs to hear. I hope, therefore, that your Lordships will give a resounding and positive vote to the main Motion before us, thus enabling the Church of England to get on with the ministry of healing and reconciliation, not only within its own ranks but also, and more importantly, in the nation as a whole.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Baroness McFarlane of Llandaff
My Lords, when I first put down my name to speak in this debate I wondered whether, after all the words which have been written and said on this issue, there would be anything new to say. Certainly, after hearing 34 speakers in this debate, noble Lords may wonder whether it would not be best to be exceedingly short and to pass on to the conclusion of our debate.
But I want, first, to thank those who, I have to say, "endured" the proceedings of the Ecclesiastical Committee and most of all for the report which came out of it in such great clarity. I believe that we have a guiding document. I speak because I am a relative newcomer to Synod. I was elected in 1990. I came to that body after discussions at PCC level, in deaneries, at the hustings and going round speaking at every deanery in the diocese. I was left in no doubt that the people at those meetings wanted us to get on with the job of passing these Measures. There were of course dissentients to that position but the main thrust was that we should clear this issue out of our way.
Since I have become a member of Synod and since the vote, I have been privileged to be engaged in two committees which have given me further insight into what we are about. I chaired a very small group in our diocese that looked at the report, Deacons Now. It considered the position of deacons in the Church of England after three years and after ordination. I am at the moment chairing an audit commission where, in one 1065 of the dioceses, the vote went against these Measures. I believe that those two experiences have given me very different insights into the present situation of deacons who have been ordained and their problems in deployment and employment terms which, in the secular world from which I come, I would consider to be inequitable.
I believe that those women deacons have been very patient in their situation and that it is time for us to move on in their interests. At the audit commission where most of the diocese are of another view, I hear the grief and the pain of those people. Again, it is impressed on me that we must deal with them in compassion.
As I read the Ecclesiastical Committee's report I found myself warming very much to paragraph 13—the objections to the ordination of women on scriptural grounds. I come from a very strong biblically-based background. I would want whatever we do to be consonant with the position of scripture. I could not go forward with this matter in all conscience unless it were consonant with scripture. It is interesting that, although I held very firmly these views which are expressed in paragraph 13 perhaps 40 years ago, over that period and by all kinds of circumstances, I have been helped into a deeper insight as to what those scriptures really mean. That helps me to see that I can hold those scriptures in integrity but also in balance with the rest of scripture and what that says about the place of women.
So I have moved from the position that I held 40 years ago. It has been a gradual process. It was only completed when, about four years ago, I sat next to somebody at a wedding reception who was a Bible translator and who expounded to me more fully one of those verses.
Therefore, I want to approach this issue with scriptural integrity. When I look at those who hold the representative view of the priesthood I have, as I have worked with them, tried to put myself where they are. I tried to do that before the vote in Synod. I tried to sit where they sat. I know that if I held their views, I would be full of grief, sorrow and pain now. But I cannot hold that view with integrity. So I revert to what is a strongly biblical faith and a position which I believe is consonant with scripture.
But I believe that in all the agony that some people are going through, Clause 2 (as do the financial provisions) makes provision for those people. I am glad about the irenic statements that came out of Manchester. As one who worships in Manchester I am glad that its name is associated with those two statements. I support the Act of Synod.
I cannot support the amendment because to me that is a delaying tactic. By the wish of Synod and so many others who are behind us in Synod and not just the substantial two-thirds majority of the laity and the many who, from the hundreds of letters which we have all received, are with us in this issue, we are supported in the view that the time is ripe for us to move on.
I have recently been reading the revised English Bible. Last week we were re-reading the messages of the Lord of the Church to the Churches in Asia Minor. It came to me with great freshness: "I know what you are 1066 doing", and at the end of every letter, "You have ears. Then listen to what the spirit is saying to the churches". That is what I feel that we should be about. We should now be liberating the Church to go on with its essential work which is so needed in our society.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady McFarlane of Llandaff, has spoken from a scriptural theme, which is entirely proper, but I must reflect that Parliament is a secular body. It makes its decisions on political grounds for social purposes, whereas the Synod is an ecclesiastical body which makes its decisions on theological grounds for spiritual purposes.
The contributions of the noble Baronesses, Lady Lockwood and Lady Hilton, and of my noble friend Lady Denton, were proper parliamentary approaches because they dealt with the secular aspects. They would have been very appropriate in a debate which would have been timely last week on the winding up of the Women's Royal Naval Service. The WRNS marched into history yesterday and that debate would have been about a question of status. However, the debate that we are now considering is not, as I understand it, about status; it is a debate about function and about whether women and men can perform the same priestly function.
I have already said that Parliament is a secular and non-theological body. It follows that I warmly endorse what my noble friend Lord Whitelaw said ages ago in the early stages of this debate when he drew the limits within which we would be on the right grounds to resist this Measure, whatever we think of it, as Parliamentarians. As a secular body, I do not think that we can properly forbid an ecclesiastical body making and implementing its own decisions on theological grounds for spiritual purposes. In spite of what the noble Lords, Lord Glenamara and Lord Howell, have said, I do not think that we are fit to join in theological arguments with that massive, impressive and unusually large phalanx on my left. However, we can observe the battle. As the noble Lord, Lord Runcie, reminded us, we can observe what appears to be a battle in terms of conflict, but to understand the conflict one has to put it into proportion and to see it in the context in which it is being fought.
Your Lordships do not have to look at Yugoslavia, Somalia or Nagorno-Karabakh in order to see that there is massive and violent evil afoot in this world and that the Church is needed to fight it. One needs to look only at Greysteel, at what befell Jamie Bulger or under the arches in this city. Your Lordships could look at the scene that was drawn to your attention by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark or at the cultural devastation to which the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, referred in her moving speech.
The Church is needed to minister in these tragic fields, in which a much greater battle is being waged in which we are all engaged. When we turn to look at the battle which the Church has been fighting within itself, standing even safer and further back than the noble Lord, Lord Runcie, we see the casualties streaming back. They are recognised, I suppose—and this has been prayed in aid in support of this Measure—in Clause 2 of 1067 the principal Measure and, I suppose, in the whole of the financial Measure. However, that is all expressed in the language of statute, and the noble Lord, Lord Charteris of Amisfield, has pointed out how powerful and important language is in determining people's conduct and in expressing their intentions. We cannot express compassion and charity in the language of statute, and that is what has been lacking from a great deal—although not the whole—of this debate.
I am greatly heartened by the account that was given by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon of the early discussions in York and what is happening there. I was greatly encouraged by the recognition by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark of the pain that has been suffered by those who felt excluded and who would continue to feel excluded if this Measure were not carried. But let us not forget the pain of those who will feel themselves excluded if this Measure is carried, as I believe that it must be. I have deep sympathy with them because I fully understand their scriptural and, in so far as I am able, their theological position. If we were the right body to conduct such a debate, I should be speaking on that.
This has been conducted as a conflict. But let us remember that it is a conflict within a family and that the people who succeed in the argument—I decline and refuse to call them "victors" because that would be a disaster—are members of the same family as those who do not succeed: they are brothers and sisters. They are not victors and vanquished in a battle. We in the laity need the Church to be whole and loving and expressing the love of God. God is love and it is our duty to express that love among one another, and the clergy to the clergy and the people to the people. It is not going to be easy. It is easy for me to stand up and say that we should love one another because, that is the second commandment. It is easy to say that, but it is very far from easy to do it. There is pain in the giving as well as in the receiving. We have to face this as an extra, but a purifying, burden. I believe that if we pass the Measure with that message, there is yet hope that our Lord will lead us to quieter pastures and a real victory.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ Lord Ennals
My Lords, as we draw towards the end of this debate, one thing of which I am very much aware is the depth of feeling that is held and the degree of pain that there will be whichever way the vote goes. As the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has just said, all of us have to understand that pain and we must try to ease it. The decision to allow the ordination of women will be taken—I feel that in my bones—and I think that it is right that it should be.
We have heard some moving speeches and among the most moving have been those from the women, whichever side they have been on. It is right that their voice should be heard in this important debate. I was glad also that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and the noble Lord, Lord Holderness, in moving his amendment, spoke with great restraint and dignity and not in a sense of seeking to divide the waters.
1068 It could be asked, "What more can be said, especially by someone who is not a member of the Anglican Church?". I am a spiritual man but I am not a member of the Church of England, and I should like to record my view that the time must come when the Church of England is neither the established Church of this land nor has to come before Parliament to gain support for decisions which are clearly decisions for the Church and not for a political body such as the House of Commons or your Lordships' House. I do not think that I am as optimistic as Tony Benn, who in the debate in another place said that he thought that the Church of England would cease to be the established Church by the turn of the century. It will take longer than that. However, it seems absurd that in this day and age such a measure should be decided by the House of Commons, which is dominated by elected men, many of whom practice no religious faith, and by your Lordships' House, again dominated by men (but unelected), many of whom practise no religious faith. Finally, such a measure will be signed by the Monarch who, whatever the views of the Monarch are likely to be, is the Defender of the Faith.
I think that the time must come for a change. So, yes, I am in favour of the disestablishment of the Church. But that is not what we are debating. I know that the serried ranks of the bishops will say, "Thank. God we are not debating that tonight. It is not what we are here for". So long as we have the power, we must use it with responsibility.
I agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, in what I thought was a brave maiden speech, when he said—he did not put it in these words—that we cannot have women priests and then go on to say, "Yes, but you cannot become women bishops". Of course it is a step along the road. I suppose that we shall have to debate that issue at the right time. This country has had a woman Prime Minister who survived for a long time. We have a successful woman Speaker. We struggle, some more obviously than others, to give a special boost to women to be selected for parliamentary seats, even to the Shadow Cabinet, although we do not seem to have much success in that.
Women have equality by law in pay and conditions at work. That owes much to the Equal Opportunities Commission and the work carried out by my noble friend Lady Lockwood. We call for more and more women to be in the courtroom; in the boardroom; in the council chamber; and wherever things are decided. Although we call for it, we have to call loudly, because there is still massive discrimination against women in almost every field of human endeavour. "No", it will be said by those who have been arguing the theological case, "this has nothing to do with equality of women". That was said by the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain. I believe that it has; I believe that it has everything to do with women who strive, in this case to do the best that they can for the Church and the law in which they believe. I share, if I can, the misery of those women who have, for years, hoped that this day would come. Gosh! If we do not vote the right way this time, just imagine 1069 the misery for those who have given their lives to God and to the community, and who will be told, "Thus far, but no further".
We have heard that this issue is not a theological one. That was said by the Synod some time ago, and so I shall not delve into that issue, although I see that some extremists—
§ Lord Robertson of Oakridge
My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that the flip side to the involvement of women in other activities is a factor in the collapse of family life in this country?
§ Lord Ennals
My Lords, every decision we take has all sorts of consequences. When we decide whether we will do this, that or the other, we have always to take into consideration how that decision will affect our other responsibilities to society.
The World Council of Churches noted in a document in 1982 that those Churches—I am thinking of Churches in other parts of the world which have done so—which have accepted women into ordination:have found that women's gifts are as wide and varied as men's, and that their ministry is as fully blessed by the Holy Spirit as the ministry of men".I am certain that 10 years from now we shall be saying that. There will be some people who will leave the Church of England once the decision is taken, but there will be others who will come into the Church of England because of the freedom and wisdom that has been shown by the synod that we shall be endorsing this evening.
This is—no one has said this previously—the International Year of Multi-Religious Understanding and Co-operation. I was proud to chair the launching event in Britain in January and to take part in many events in which different faiths have come together. As we look at the different faiths in the world, we see that the Church of England is by no means the most discriminatory against women. I look forward to the time when Islam, the Sikhs, the Anglican Church and the Catholic Church all see the same central role for women who give service as for men who give service.
I am certain that that time will come. The decision to be taken this evening will be a step in that direction. I do not know how, even now, we can say to Islam, "Why do you discriminate against women?" when we discriminate against women ourselves. We need to set a lead in all these fields. I hope that the issue will be decided clearly tonight. As I said, I know that there will be much sadness, whichever way the vote goes, but, as has been said by others, so much time has been taken in this debate in the Church and elsewhere that it must be settled. I hope that, after it has been settled, there will be a great coming together of people who recognise that there was a genuine and honest debate through which people sought advice to enable them to do the right thing. I believe that the Church itself will seek to bind the wounds whichever way the decision goes.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Lord Marlesford
My Lords, I suppose that most of us were brought up on the legend of Drake staying to play a game of bowls before going on to fight the 1070 Spaniards. Bowls is a game of passion, but not, I think, a game of bitterness. If Drake's admirals had stumped off Plymouth Hoe in a rage, the main battle and conquest of the Spanish Armada might have been imperilled. My worry is that the Church is beginning to fight this battle in the wrong mood. It is a mood—not so much in this House or the other place, although it appeared occasionally in the debate of the other place that I read—of growing bitterness. That worries me, because that could detract from the real campaign, the war between good and evil.
The Church of England is, in one way at least, similar to a political party. At least it is in my simple-minded definition of a political party, which is a group of people who agree on more than they disagree. Disagreement which is passionate can be strengthening, but disagreement which is bitter can damage, or even destroy, a political party, and indeed a Church.
In supporting the Measure, I speak only as a member of the grass roots of the Church in rural Suffolk; as a member of my PCC; and as a church warden. We are lucky enough to have an excellent rector who lives in our village. He looks after four churches, but we are aware of the tremendous problems that exist in areas less fortunate than ours. I doubt whether one should ever reject service which is offered when it is needed, and particularly when it is offered by people who are as dedicated to giving it as women priests would wish to be.
The debate here and in another place has, I suppose, focused upon arguments on a higher plane: on, if one likes, moral issues. Moral issues are hard to define. They may be easier for an individual to recognise, but many of us still find it hard to distinguish between a moral issue and an issue of emotion or, indeed, of tradition, all of which are important. I do not believe the noble Lord, Lord Charteris, would mind if I were to say that the Prayer Book is primarily an issue of tradition, and the value of that tradition, rather than a great moral issue.
Whether or not the ordination of women is a moral issue, certainly for most of us, it is an issue of conscience. We have to respect the view of those who disagree with us, and to respect that view in practice. Perhaps I may give an example which your Lordships may feel is irrelevant, although I think that it has some relevance. Let us think about doctors. There are a number of women who prefer not to be examined by a male doctor. There are, I suppose, a number of men who prefer not to consult a woman doctor. Arrangements can be made, have been made, and must be made to meet those feelings. But surely no one will suggest that the logic of that is that there shall not be men doctors or that there shall not be women doctors.
Let us therefore adapt to the conscience of those who disagree with us. I am unhappy with the idea of paying people off with money for adhering to their consciences. That slightly devalues the great value of conscience. But we must respect and provide for the conscience of others, and let us ask that they shall do the same for us.
Never perhaps was respect for conscience more generously expressed than by Winston Churchill in 1071 November 1940 at the death of Neville Chamberlain, a man with whom he had disagreed widely and deeply on vital issues. Winston Churchill said:The only guide to a man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions. It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield, because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with this shield, however the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honour".I believe that, in the light of what Churchill described in that same speech as "the flickering lamp of history", this Measure will be seen to have strengthened the Church of England.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Lord Beaumont of Whitley
My Lords, I rise in an exposed position as the last speaker on the general list of speakers before those who are to wind up the debate. I am the only member of the inferior clergy to speak in the debate—no one would consider the noble Lord, Lord Soper, to be a clergyman inferior to anyone. I belong to the inferior clergy, but I have the advantage of having been ordained in Hong Kong by the great bishop who was the first to ordain a woman in the Anglican Communion. I have always been swayed by his example and opinions because he was a great bishop and a great saint.
In the tasks that we have before us today we have the normal duty that we are given when matters come up to us from Synod. I believe that usually we should accept the will of the Church of England as expressed by Synod. It is our duty, as we perform it in the Ecclesiastical Committee—on which my noble friend Lady Seear and I and other noble Lords sat for many hours in order to deal with this matter—to ensure that minorities are not in any way oppressed by what is being put forward. The Ecclesiastical Committee did its job. Although there has been an argument about that today and it is the subject of an amendment, it is not the point at issue.
The special task that Parliament has today is to let the Church of England back into the area of society. Through us society has passed various pieces of legislation with which almost all Members of your Lordships' House will agree relating to the equality of men and women in our society and in their jobs. For reasons which seemed good to the Church of England—I have no doubt that at the time they were good—the Church together with other religious bodies asked for exemption; and they were granted it. If the Church now asks to be relieved of that exemption and to come back into the mainstream of what British society is doing, we have an extra duty to support it.
I have slight doubts about whether we are taking the disregard of gender differentiation too far. I have great sympathy with the speech made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Sheffield. I have never heard him make a bad speech in this House, and what he said today was most interesting. I should have been more convinced if he had been able to give an idea of what would happen if in 100 years he were able to come back or to look down from the House of Bishops in the sky and see that he was right, and that some of the rest of us were wrong. I should have been more convinced if he 1072 had been able to give me an idea of the society and the Church in which women would have an equal but differentiated ministry. It is difficult to visualise that because they do not have it at present.
In the last resort, I return to what was said by Dorothy Sayers. She was a traditionalist Christian and a good theologian. At the time she was writing, I am sure that she would have been opposed to the ordination of women, although one can never make guesses about what people would have become had they lived today. She commented about another matter which is relevant to our discussions today, and therefore I venture to paraphrase her words. She said that the question is not whether women should be ordained. The question is whether Jane Smith, who is theologically qualified, judged by her parish diocese and the appropriate bodies of the Church to have been called by God, should be rejected just because she is a woman when John Smith, with exactly the same qualifications, is ordained because he is a man. That is the question at issue and I hope that your Lordships will vote for the Motion and against the amendment.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Lord Sefton of Garston
My Lords, I apologise to the most reverend Primate for rising to speak in the gap in the speakers' list, and evidently I must explain why. I have stayed in the Chamber almost all afternoon while other noble Lords have been going in and out. I have done so because I received appeals from various sources, including the Church people, to be in attendance in order to demonstrate that they are interested in this subject. Well, I have remained here and that is more than can be said for other noble Lords who have not been present.
I am left with this problem. I read as much as I could of the debate in the other place, and I am left with a question which was posed in that House. A Member wanted to know what the Church thought of the eucharist. What is the meaning of it today? I ask the right reverend Primate to deal with that matter in reply.
The second reason for speaking is that I listened to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Sheffield. If I had not heard him perhaps I should have been content to ask that question privately and not have bothered to intervene in the debate.
I was reared in a very Christian family and was told many things. I went to Sunday school and to church and was told all about Adam and Eve, how God created the world, how Jesus Christ was crucified to pay for our sins. I was told many other things. I do not believe that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Sheffield is far wrong in appearing to imply that the Church of England has changed from its original concepts. It has changed a great deal. Even now—I once got into trouble for making this suggestion in this Chamber—the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham appears to have doubts about the Resurrection and the Virgin birth. He may be right; he may be wrong. The point that I am trying to make is that the Church has changed. It has changed from the time at which it became the established Church of England. Therefore, when we talk about disestablishment, we are not disestablishing the 1073 Church but rather the Church is changing and the Church is disestablishing itself because it now believes something entirely different from that which it believed when it was first established.
Why do I believe that the Church should be disestablished? I believe that one thing is more important than all that we have discussed today—that is, the unity of the Church is the unity of mankind. I have said that before and I shall continue to say it whenever I have an opportunity to do so in this House. That is the most important thing which matters to humanity. There is no possibility whatever of that being achieved while some of the fundamental religions are still operating. There is no question of unity between Islam and Christianity if they remain the same. Let us come nearer home. This measure will widen the gap between Protestant and Catholic elements in Ireland.
I shall not say much more although I could go on for a long time. I have done that before because somebody tried to stop me. I suggest to the Church of England, which is still the established Church, that it should stop talking about women. It should allow them to be ordained immediately. It should then get down to the real fundamental problem which faces humanity. It should start a campaign to unite the religions of this world which are mainly based on myth and propaganda. The Church should get down to uniting mankind and nobody else.
§ 8.12 p.m.
The Archbishop of York
My Lords, it would take us too far from our main theme were Ito respond to the challenge to expound the meaning of the eucharist, important though that is. However, I wish to take hold of the kite flown briefly by the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, who asked why this House should be debating this matter at all. The answer lies in the long and distinguished list of speakers who have felt that it was right to speak in the debate. I thank them all for their contributions to it. I confess that I am quite unable to pick up all the points which have been made and I shall simply concentrate on picking out a few salient points.
Many of the points have been answered in the course of the debate but I believe that all would agree that this has been a serious, well informed and searching debate and one in which we have engaged because we sense that what affects the Church of England deeply affects the nation. Indeed, that is what establishment is about.
We have seen something of the emotion on both sides. Your Lordships' House has also seen something of the healthy diversity within the House of Bishops. That has in no way been orchestrated. As always, the bishops have been themselves and perhaps I may say that they acted entirely in character. We have also seen some of the depths of the emotion which we as a Church, and particularly as a House of Bishops, has been engaged in for many years. I hope that your Lordships will recognise that, having gone through that, we come to your Lordships differing over the legislation but nevertheless as a united House determined to work together and determined to hold together the Church of England. But we recognise that it is not a monolithic 1074 Church and, therefore, that must be done with the kind of compassion and sensitivity about which the noble Lord, Lord Elton, spoke so movingly just a few moments ago.
It is not simply on such a matter that it is necessary to try to hold together the Church. That is a continual problem of any church but perhaps particularly focused in the Church of England which tries so hard to maintain that proper diversity which has always been its glory.
But the Church constantly tries to live holding on to eternal truths, to what we believe has been given by God and being faithful to tradition. And yet it lives under the motto coined by Luther: semper reformandum, always being reformed. It is always open to change because, as the noble Lord, Lord Runcie, said right at the beginning of the debate, there are things which you can be faithful to only in so far as you allow them to be changed. Simply to have a treasure, bury it in the ground and imagine that it will remain there for ever the same is to lose it. It is by using what we have, by developing it and by taking it forward as we believe under the guidance of God that we remain faithful to what we have been given.
All change is dangerous. We have been reminded movingly of possible slippery slopes. Your Lordships' House is always coming up against the slippery slopes argument and always says, quite rightly, "Yes, what you do with a slippery slope depends on whether you are wearing crampons or skates. You can stop". It is precisely the purpose of debates, legislations and decisions to know where to stop. Because we make a solemn decision about this particular matter concerning the possibility of ordaining women as priests does not mean that we are then letting our tradition go out of the window wholesale.
We have safeguards. The Church of England is totally hemmed in by safeguards. I particularly liked the view of the noble Lord, Lord Charteris, as regards the Book of Common Prayer as a prophylactic against "uppitiness" and many other things. The point is that conflict is endemic in life and, indeed, endemic in the Church. But we recognise that, as the Church of England, we have made a decision. We now ask this House to ratify it. But in making that decision, we recognise also a substantial minority, though not quite such a large minority as some have said, who nevertheless have doubts about the matter. There are some who reject it so deeply that, alas, they may reject the Church of England altogether. One recognises that that is inevitable, for, I believe, a very small minority.
I was asking my suffragan bishops this morning how many clergy in the diocese had expressed an interest in going to the Church of Rome or had gone to the Church of Rome. I was told that one retired priest went to the Church of Rome and then decided to come back. There are those who have doubts and what the Church is concerned about and what the House of Bishops has been working hard at is to make sure that there is space for them so that they can be themselves. That is what the Act of Synod is about.
The Act of Synod is not a desperate expedient to try to get this Measure through the Houses of Parliament. The Act of Synod was a way in which the Bishops believe that they can preserve the proper diversity of the 1075 Church of England while respecting the consciences of those who have doubts about this legislation. That diversity is for the Church's sake and for the nation's sake.
In allowing space, we recognise that in terms of the Universal Church, the matter is not decided. Not all Christians accept the possibility of women being priests. Therefore, we enter what we call a process of discernment or testing. It is through that process that we allow certain anomalies to exist within the life of our Church. There are anomalies within the Act of Synod. However, we allow that discernment because, although we have made a local decision as the Church of England, we are in no way turning our backs on our nature as a Church and as one part of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church Universal. We are deliberately keeping our eyes on that Universal Church, both that piece of it that is represented in the Anglican communion and also that which is represented ecumenically by the whole Church of Christ worldwide. We tread the difficult path of deciding something locally, as decisions usually have been made in the Church, while also maintaining those roots within the Universal Church with that universal intent.
That is why, within the legislation, there is the clause concerning bishops which has caused so much offence. It is not about saying that women are not good enough to become bishops; it is nothing of that kind. It is about the particular role of the bishop as a focus of unity and of authority. If you are trying within the Church to maintain your character as part of the Universal Church, then what you do about bishops has a particular significance, even more so than is the case with what you do about priests. You can contain women priests within the Church, use their gifts and let them develop, and let the process of the Church Universal considering the matter continue until at length—please God—the Church as a whole will once again find its unity around a united ministry.
There is an openness in the process. I should like vigorously to refute the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale. He said that in the future all bishops must accept women priests. That is only true in a marginal sense. It is true in the sense that, if you are part of a Church which legally ordains women priests, then you must accept that they have been legally ordained. You may have doubts about precisely what that ordination achieves, but the rather complicated arrangements set out in the Act of Synod are there to allow such doubts to be exercised by bishops as well as by others. That is why it is perfectly possible for bishops who are opposed to the ordination of women as priests still to be appointed as bishops in our Church, as some have been in the past few weeks. The bishops must accept the legal implications of the decision made by the Church of England.
There has been some discussion in the debate of theological issues and., having been warned by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, I do not propose to enter into them, save to make one comment about the very different ways in which people can appeal to the Bible to support their particular position. That is especially odd when it comes to priests. I say that because the New Testament 1076 does not actually mention priests. The priesthood, as described in the New Testament, is "the priesthood of Christ"—that is, a priesthood which is then shared by the whole body, male and female.
We have heard a good deal about the inclusive humanity of Christ. There are theological roots in the New Testament concerning what the Measure seeks to do. Clearly, springing out of the New Testament is a whole historical process in which you get this constant interaction which has taken place all through the history of the Church between the actual circumstances in which the Church is set and the theological understanding through which it is trying to operate. Indeed, we are in that same game today.
I turn now to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Holderness. As he is, in a sense, a parishioner of mine, I hate to have to say that I hope your Lordships will not vote for the amendment. The amendment is entirely well intentioned. The noble Lord shares with the House of Bishops the desire to hold the Church of England together. However, the House of Bishops has, I believe, been unfairly criticised for the timing of the debate, in that it comes before the debate in the General Synod. Perhaps I may say, most respectfully, that the timing of the debate in this Chamber is entirely a matter for your Lordships and nothing whatever to do with the General Synod, or any machinations by the bishops; it has simply worked out: this way. In some ways, it would be more convenient if we were debating the matter after the Synod has its debate next week. However, after today's marathon, I am sure that your Lordships would not wish to debate the matter again.
The Archbishop of York
My Lords, the noble Lord's amendment has a sting in the tail. I say that because it entails a commitment to go forward to legislation. I want to resist that very strongly, for reasons which were most movingly spelt out by the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, although she did riot quite make the point. She talked about the distraction which all this has been to the life of the Church and to its proper mission towards the nation. I do not believe that it has been a distraction, as many matters have been worked out through the process. However, we do riot want to go on being distracted. If the Synod undertook to turn the Act of Synod into legislation, it would take two more years. It would mean at least three debates in the General Synod, a reference to dioceses and the matter would then have to return both to the House of Commons and to your Lordships' House. If we are talking about distraction, it seems to me that that process would drive us to it.
Moreover, in the end, it would all be unnecessary. I say that because the two key issues in the Act of Synod relate to non-discrimination and safeguards. There are already safeguards in the Measure. The principle that it is possible to dissent from the decision is already written into the Measure, with provisions for bishops, for clergy and for parishes. If, as I trust, the Synod approves the appointment of the provincial episcopal visitors, the creation of new suffragan sees will be part of the law. 1077 The main safeguard of those who dissent from the Measure lies in the role of those provincial episcopal visitors as kinds of ombudsmen. Therefore, there are already provisions built into the whole process which pass beyond the goodwill which has been expressed by the Synod and by the House of Bishops.
People have said, "Well, it is possible to revert an Act of Synod". Of course, it is possible to revert anything, even legislation. However, as I am sure that your Lordships realise, it is not very easy to reverse things in the Church of England; indeed, it is not easy to do anything in the Church of England, especially if one is trying to undo something. Any motion of that kind requires the approval of all three Houses. Therefore, once you have something, it is really quite hard to get rid of it. I believe that the House can, with confidence, vote for the Measures before us unamended. I feel that we will all come together and that the synod will, next week, see the point of enshrining this treasured diversity of the Church of England in the Act of Synod.
I believe that we are witnessing one of those changes in human affairs which are indeed permanent. We are not responding to fashion. The fact that women have found a new dignity and a new role in our society is not a matter of fashion. It would be deeply disrespectful to what has happened in recent decades if we were to say that the Church is responding to fashion. There has been a movement of the spirit in secular as well as in religious society and the Church has tried to respond as honestly as possible to that. We are trying to be obedient to the truth as we see it but we are not closing the door on other visions of truth. This is our human condition—to live with this element of muddle.
We cannot escape from the kind of risks involved in going forward and making a change of this kind. The patron saint of archbishops is Gamaliel. He was the character in the New Testament who said, "Let us try it. Let us do it. If it is of God, then God will show us and if it is not of God, then God will show us that too". In the name of Gamaliel, I ask noble Lords to resist this amendment and pass these two Motions.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Lord Holderness
My Lords, I wish I had time, without the danger of being torn apart, to thank individually all those noble Lords who have taken part in our debate. I can do so only collectively but I do so none the less sincerely. My problem in making this final speech is that the debate has centred largely on the central issue of the ordination of women to the priesthood. Obviously my difficulty is that I have expressed my conviction that women will shortly, in my opinion, be so ordained. My amendment, as noble Lords will remember, asked for two other provisions to which the most reverend Primate the Archbishop has just referred, one of which was to await the imminent decision on the Act of Synod. I am afraid I was not responsible for raising either the Synod's business or business in your Lordships' House. I also pressed for the need for a subsequent Measure to follow that Act.
1078 As I still believe it is wrong to part with the Measure before the approval of the Act of Synod, particularly in view of the stern warning by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester, and also to part with it without the promise of a supplementary Measure, I must ask noble Lords to express their opinion. I commend the amendment to the House.
§ The Deputy Speaker (Lord Boston of Faversham)
My Lords, the original Motion was that this House,do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent".Since when an amendment has been moved to leave out all the words after "House" and insert the words set out on the Order Paper. The Question is that this amendment be agreed to.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 25; Not-Contents, 135.1079
|Division No. 1|
|Ashboume, L.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Blatch, B.||O'Cathain, B.|
|Burnham, L.||Robertson of Oakridge, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Salisbury, M.|
|Chichester, Bp.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Clanwilliam, E.||Seccombe, B.|
|Clark of Kempston, L||Sudeley, L.|
|Cross, V.||Swinfen, L.|
|Dacre of Glanton, L.||Swinton, E.|
|Donegall, M.||Terrington, L.|
|Holderness, L. [Teller.]||Teynham, L.|
|Lauderdale, E. [Teller.]|
|Aberdare, L.||Eccles, V.|
|Ackner, L.||Elis-Thomas, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Elliot of Harwood, B.|
|Allenby of Megiddo, V.||Elton, L.|
|Alport, L.||Ennals, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Falkland, V.|
|Benson, L.||Flather, B.|
|Blackstone, B.||Geraint, L.|
|Bolton, L.||Glenamara, L.|
|Bonham-Carter, L.||Gould of Potternewton, B.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Graham of Edmonton, L.|
|Braine of Wheatley, L.||Greenway, L.|
|Brentford, V.||Grey, E.|
|Bristol, Bp.||Grimston of Westbury, L.|
|Caldecote, V.||Guildford, Bp. [Teller.]|
|Canterbury, Abp.||Hacking, L.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Haig, E.|
|Carnock, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.|
|Carr of Hadley, L.||Hampton, L.|
|Chalker of Wallasey, B.||Hamwee, B.|
|Charteris of Amisfield, L.||Harris of Greenwich, L.|
|Chester, Bp.||Harrowby, E.|
|Coggan, L.||Henniker, L.|
|Combermere, V.||Hilton of Eggardon, B.|
|Coventry, Bp.||Hollis of Heigham, B.|
|Cox, B.||HolmPatrick, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Howell, L.|
|Crathorne, L.||Howie of Troon, L.|
|Cumberlege, B.||Hylton-Foster, B.|
|David, B.||Jeffreys, L.|
|Dean of Harptree, L.||Jenkins of Hillhead, L.|
|Denton of Wakefield, B.||Judd, L.|
|Desai, L.||Kennet, L.|
|Dixon-Simth, L.||Kimball, L.|
|Dormand of Easington, L.||Kinnoull, E.|
|Dundonald, E.||Kitchener, E.|
|Dunrossil, V.||Lichfield, Bp.|
|Lincoln, Bp.||Robson of Kiddington, B.|
|Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.||Rochester, L.|
|Lloyd of Berwick, L.||Runcie, L.|
|Lockwood, B.||Russell, E.|
|Longford, E.||Saint Albans, Bp. [Teller.]|
|Lucas, L.||St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich,|
|McFarlane of Llandaff, B.||Seear, B.|
|McGregor of Durris, L.||Serota, B.|
|Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.||Simon of Glaisdale, L.|
|Macleod of Borve, B.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Marlesford, L.||Slim, V.|
|Masham of Ilton, B.||Southwark, Bp.|
|Mayhew, L.||Stedman, B.|
|Merlyn-Rees, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Middleton, L.||Strange, B.|
|Monson, L.||Templeman, L.|
|Morris of Castle Morris, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Mulley, L.||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Newall, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Nicol, B.||Ullswater, V.|
|Oxfuird, V.||Wakeham, L.|
|Park of Monmouth, B.||[Lord Privy Seal.]|
|Platt of Writtle, B.||Walton of Detchant, L.|
|Prentice, L.||Warnock, B.|
|Prys-Davies, L.||Weatherill, L.|
|Raglan, L.||Westbury, L.|
|Rea, L.||Whitelaw, V.|
|Redesdale, L.||Worcester, Bp.|
|Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Richard, L.||York, Abp.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.1080
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.