Letter: Parochial respect for women priests

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The Independent Online
Sir: The measure that comes before the General Synod of the Church of England this week declares that the Synod regards it as desirable that 'the integrity of differing beliefs and positions concerning the ordination of women to the priesthood should be mutually recognised and

respected'.

The idea that these different 'integrities' can coexist within one church has led diocesan bishops to agree not to use the permissive power that they had been given to make declarations that would in effect have restricted or denied the priesthood of women within their dioceses for a limited period. The Archbishop of Canterbury hailed this as showing that the spirit of generosity and mutual respect has prevailed.

This spirit has, however, been primarily episcopal and cleric- centred. If the different integrities are to be recognised and respected in the places where most Anglicans live, move and have their being, then a similar self-denial would need to apply in the parishes; and the power to pass motions that would restrict the ministry of women should be similarly eschewed.

No worshippers should have the ministry of a woman priest forced upon them; but at the very least, in all parishes where a minority would accept the priestly ministry of a woman, there should be the opportunity for them to receive and experience that ministry in the parish church, and they should not be driven out of the parish in order to do so.

Commenting on the Act of Synod, the Archbishop of York has said that 'living in unity while respecting differences is not easy, yet that is what we are committed to as a church'. If parochial church councils choose the easy option of uniformity and avoid the difficult pilgrimage of unity in diversity, they will certainly be recognising differing beliefs and opinions, but will definitely not be respecting them.

Yours faithfully,

WALTER JAMES

Eastbourne

7 November

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