Gummer leaves Synod over women priests

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The Independent Online
JOHN GUMMER, the Minister for Agriculture and a vociferous opponent of women's ordination, yesterday announced his resignation from the General Synod of the Church of England.

'I cannot continue as member of a body which pretends it has the power to make priests without authority of scripture or tradition. The Synod has finally turned the Church of England into a sect,' he said.

'In future, 'Archbishop of Canterbury' will be merely a courtesy title. Instead of being enthroned in St Augustine's Chair as a successor of the Apostles, he will sit there by courtesy of the General Synod. The Church of England once claimed that its bishops and priests had the awesome authority of the historic catholic orders. Now they only derive from a two thirds majority (required to pass the legislation) of what is at best a provincial synod.'

Mr Gummer, who has served at the General Synod since 1979 and was on fighting form in the women's ordination debate last month, is the first Synod member to resign over the vote. He will continue to oppose the legislation, however, as a member of the parliamentary ecclesiastical committee, which will consider it next year.

To the electors of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich diocese, which he represents on the Synod, he wrote: 'I have lived and I hoped to die in that part of the Catholic Church called the Church of England. I no longer believe that such an option exists . . . I confess I do not yet know where I shall go from here.'

Mr Gummer attacked modern trends in the Church. 'The almost complete abandonment of the Prayer Book has not only left a new generation impoverished in its worship, but the Church of England has lost its bedrock of faith and order.

'Bishops, whose vocation it is to be the centre of unity, have denied the virgin birth and cast doubt upon the reality of the Resurrection. Where once we sent missionaries to spread the gospel of the risen Lord, we now arrange inter-faith services with religions which deny Him.'

Jenny Standage, of The Movement for the Ordination of Women, said: 'The Synod will lose a great debater. I hope his example will not be followed by others, who are in a minority over this issue.' The Rev Geoffrey Kirk, from the umbrella group of opponents, 'Forward in Faith', said other Synod members had been discouraged from resigning 'in dribs and drabs.'

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, appealed for church unity last night. 'We have spent a long time, 20 years, discussing the ordination of women to the priesthood, Synod has declared its mind, and now what we must do is to live together in the Church of England.'