Letter: Help for opponents of women's ordination

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The Independent Online
Sir: In your item on the recently announced proposals of the House of Bishops to help meet the needs of those who oppose the ordination of women ('Carey hopes roving bishops will curb revolt', 15 January), you quote Christina Rees, of the Movement for the Ordination of Women, as saying that such proposals are 'against the whole spirit of the legislation'.

For once Ms Rees is wrong. The bishops' proposals are exactly in line with the legislation. What has been lost from view in the middle of so much of the continuing debate is that the legislation contained two thrusts. The first was to provide for the ordination of women to the priesthood and the second was to provide for the consciences of those who would not feel able to agree with such a move. Most of the text of the measure deals with the second point.

When first drafted, the conscience parts of the measure were only going to remain in place for about 20 years. In November 1989 this time limit was deliberately dropped from the measure because it was either implying that people's consciences could be worn down or, alternatively, that those holding such views were being given 'notice to quit'.

What this means is that, since the measure was passed, the Church of England recognises two positions of integrity with regard to women's ordination. It is, therefore, the task of the bishops of a united church to service both those positions of integrity - if necessary for ever.

The alternative is schism and probably the end of a credible national church with its mission to serve the people of this country.

Yours faithfully,


Bishop of Maidstone

The Diocese of Canterbury

Charing, Kent

17 January