Archbishop of Canterbury to urge his followers to find new ways of working together in speech to General Synod
The Guardian, Sam Jones, Wednesday 12 February 2014
|Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. His plea comes a day after the synod|
approved plans to fast-track legislation that could see the first female bishop chosen
by the end of the year. Photograph: Stringer/Reuters
The archbishop of Canterbury will call on Anglicans to embrace a "cultural change in the life of the church" and to abandon old fears, suspicions and prejudices as the introduction of female bishops draws a step closer.
In his presidential address to the General Synod in London on Wednesday, Justin Welby will reflect on love and fear in the wake of his recent trips to South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and urge his followers to find new ways of working together.
His plea comes a day after the synod approved plans to fast-track legislation that could see the first female bishop chosen by the end of the year.
"We have agreed – and God willing we will follow this through over the next few months until it is part of an agreed measure – that we will ordain women as bishops," he will say.
"At the same time, we have agreed that, while doing that, we want all parts of the church to flourish. If we are to challenge fear, we have to find a cultural change in the life of the church, in the way our groups and parties work, sufficient to build love and trust. That will mean different ways of working at every level of the church in practice, in the way our meetings are structured, presented and lived out in every form of appointment."
Welby will say it is vital that "huge discipline" is exercised when making new appointments, suggesting he is keen to ensure that those who have opposed the creation of female bishops do not feel alienated or passed over.
Members of the Church of England's governing body voted on Tuesday to move to rescind the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993, which helped to hold the church together by providing so-called "flying bishops" to look after parishes that rejected women priests, but angered those who saw it as unfair and discriminatory.
They also voted, by a margin of 358 to 39, in favour of halving the six-month consultation period over the new legislation so that dioceses' responses would be ready for consideration at the next synod meeting in July. Nine synod members abstained.
Under the measures – which won overwhelming support at the last synod meeting three months ago – female bishops would be introduced with a house of bishops "declaration" setting out guidance for parishes where congregations reject female bishops.
The plans would see the creation of an ombudsman, appointed by the archbishops and with the backing of lay and clergy representatives in the synod, who would rule on disputes once female bishops are in place. Clergy who fail to co-operate with the ombudsman could be subject to disciplinary proceedings.
Now that the package has cleared the revision stage – and if it is given final approval when the synod meets in July – the legislation could come into force by November and a female bishop could be chosen in December.
In his speech, Welby will also say: "We all know that perfect love casts out fear ... We know it although we don't often apply it. We mostly know that perfect fear casts out love. In any institution or organisation, the moment that suspicion reigns and the assumption that everything is zero sum becomes dominant – that is to say that someone else's gain must be my loss; we can't both flourish – that institution will be increasingly dominated by fear."
Despite acknowledging that the Church of England is not "tidy, nor efficiently hierarchical", the archbishop will stress the need for unity, co-operation and caution as it nears the end of its two-decade standoff over bringing women into the episcopate.
The bishop of Rochester, James Langstaff, who chaired the steering committee that came up with the new package, said he hoped the new deal would meet with final approval in July, but he was "not in the business of counting chickens", especially after the disastrous vote of November 2012, which saw moves to introduce women bishops defeated by just six votes.
"We are hopeful that the different shape of the process we are running will lead to final approval, otherwise we would not be taking it through to that stage," he said.
"But until the votes are actually counted it would be premature to assume it's going through."