The Archbishop’s “Hail Mary”

In American football, a desperate long forward pass when the clock is running out is called a “Hail Mary.” The Church Times doesn’t use that language, of course, but in a lead editorial they call the Archbishop’s proposal to have traditionalist parishes have their own bishops while still under the jurisdiction of women bishops a last minute plan “to save the day.”

LAWYER’S TRICK or work of theological insight? Probably the former. Cutting the Gordian knot, or teasing out enough of a thread for people to cling on to? Probably the latter. Whatever the verdict, it was a good sign that the Archbishops’ intervention in the women-bishops saga on Monday was met, in the main, by puzzled silence. The debate has been going on so long that all the players are adept at spotting hidden agendas, sometimes even when there isn’t one: yes, this sounds concessionary, but where’s the beef? Well, in this instance, the Archbishops claim to have served a generous portion to the traditionalists without taking anything off the plate of the women bishops. Is this true?

There is no doubt that, under the Archbishops’ proposal, discrimination will persist within the Church of England. There will continue to be parishes where only men may minister. At the same time, traditionalist parishes have to swallow the fact that they will be under the direct authority of the diocesan bishop, whether man or woman. In this respect, the new solution seems no solution….

The editors of the Church Times hopes that the Archbishop’s proposal will pass in some form. They believe that the current legislation now before the Synod will, as it stands, shift discrimination that is now experienced by women to traditionalists.

As we have said, discrimination will continue; but it is a fiction to suppose that it might be ended by the unamended legislation at present before the Synod. The discrimination would just shift from one group to another. What the Archbishops have con­structed is another fiction — that all can exist constructively with­in the one body despite opposing views. But, arguably, this is a fiction that accords more closely with the Anglican project, at least, as we have understood it hitherto — much more Anglican, we would suggest, than wrangles about jurisdiction. Nor is this a romantic fiction, in that it tampers very little with the grit of the draft Measure and the Code of Practice. But if it manages to re-introduce good will into the debate, it has a chance to succeed.

Their hope is that the Archbishop’s “hail Mary” will somehow end all discrimination is also fiction. The Archbishop’s propose to regulate discrimination, not end it, by somehow being both for and against women’s ordination at they very same time.

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