Saturday, 15 November 2008

"Honoured and Secure"

What follows is the Bishop’s statement that wasn’t behaving with Internet Explorer. Father Lee’s commentary was lost in the process, and I assume the responsibility for that.

The Rt. Revd. Nicholas Reade, Bishop of Blackburn
at S. Cuthbert's, Darwen, Trinity Sunday 2007

Bishop of Blackburn's Final Address to Clergy Synod
S. Cuthbert's, Fulwood, 11 November 2008
(my emphases added)

I am grateful for the way this afternoon has been handled, and I hope we will all feel we can honour the process we’ve been through. The ‘animateurs’ have kept notes and Chris [Canon Chris Chivers, Blackburn Cathedral] will collate this into a document, not least so that we can all have a record of today’s discussion.

Not surprisingly, since the July debate I have spoken to a number of people and equally some have been to see me, and some have even told me what they or others now believe my position to be. These have ranged from, ‘he’s going to lead a Third Province’ to ‘he’s about to change his position and will now ordain women.’ Both statements are totally inaccurate, and while as they say the stakes have been upped following the July Synod, my position remains the same as when I addressed the women clergy in this diocese on the 17th March 2004, and although that was nearly five years ago I believe I have stuck carefully to what I said at that time.

I have also looked at what I said at the 2004 Clergy Conference, and I believe that to be still my position.

May I quote from that speech:
One of the glories of Anglicanism is its comprehensiveness, and I never want anyone to feel because they occupy a different position on any particular matter from me that they cannot approach me. Everyone in the Diocese is valued for who are they are, and everyone who holds the Bishop’s licence is special to him … Whilst, of course I have my own convictions and joys and concerns about the Church, I want to make it clear I am here to encourage and support, as far as I am able all those, from whatever tradition they come … As I said at the Bishop’s Council, irrespective of where my sympathies lie no group owns the Bishop, and I will not be planting my flag in any camp. I appreciate that this policy means that some will be disappointed that I have appeared at this or that event with which they may not be in sympathy, but it is the way I feel is right to show support for all and to be even handed. The alternative, and of course easier and neater way would be for me not to accept any invitations from certain groups within the Church, but I believe that to be unacceptable, not least because it would distance me from people in the Diocese with genuinely held convictions, put me at odds with my understanding of the charge the Archbishop gave to me and go against the grain of my nature.
May I please emphasise that I still see this as my position. The Diocesan Bishop is Bishop to everyone, not just those whomay share his particular conviction or view on certain issues, and that is how it will remain. I would also like to stress that the tradition of the Church of England is that we are a diverse Church with a diverse episcopal leadership. The C of E has always held that there should be a balance of views in the episcopate, but at the same time whatever a bishop’s position may be on certain matters he remains bishop to all. And that means in every single Diocese, on this issue there are going to be a number, in some cases a large number who do not hold the same view on this question as the Bishop. In the end, as I have said before, what matters, and this applies particularly to bishops, is not so much the conclusion each one of us has arrived at, but how we wear our position in relation to others.

We need also to remember that a Bishop is not just Bishop in his own Diocese but is a Bishop for the whole Church, and it is a public office, and when I was appointed it was made clear to me that for the sake of this balance the Church needed another bishop, (and I am the only, if you like, conservative Diocesan in the North) who could represent and speak up for those of that persuasion. I think in love and charity it has to be said at the moment, that in some quarters it is considered perfectly reasonable for a bishop to speak on a national platform or in the church press for change, but not the other way round! While I am not naturally at ease taking a more political role, I have felt it right in recent months to speak out for those who after the July Synod have felt themselves marginalised, and I suspect I may do so again, and whenever I do I hope I will always be given the grace to do it in a spirit of love, respect and honesty, and, equally important, I hope that no one in this Diocese who thinks differently from me will feel that because I am doing this on a wider canvas I am now out of fellowship with them or don’t love or care for them because I have said or signed something contrary to where they themselves are.

I have stated twice in the General Synod that as a Bishop of the Church Catholic, which is what a bishop in the C of E is, I cannot see where I could find the authority from to take part in the consecration of a woman. That remains my position. However I have accepted the decision to have women bishops in the C of E, and I worked for nine months in 2005 on the Guildford Group trying to find a way that would enable us to have women bishops, but also to give space to those who could not accept this change and so allow them to remain in the highest degree of communion in spite of our fundamental difference.

My concern after last July is that a code of practice cannot, as was guaranteed in 1992, recognise that both positions are legitimate positions, and that in effect a group in the Church are now going to be marginalised, and that worries me, not least because it is not how the English Church operates. Of course the simplest solution might have been to have one, two or three non-territorial dioceses, which note, is not the same as a third province, but there could have been, and I dare to hope that one still might emerge, a structural solution that made adequate provision for those who love the Church of England and remain loyal to her, but in conscience do not believe that we can break with the received Tradition of the Church which we hold with the Great Church of the East and West. I believe such a structural solution, which honours the decision to have women bishops and equally gives an honoured and secure place to those who cannot accept this development would be right.

We have heard this afternoon something of the prolonged stages that the legislation will have to go through before receiving Royal Assent, and there could be significant amendments on the way. I very much hope those amendments will include a more adequate accommodation for those for whom a Code of Practice will not be satisfactory – and prove to be a way that seeks to retain the delicate and precious balance we have within the Church at present.

I ask that during these years of discussion and debate in the Diocese that we will engage with each other frankly and openly as we have done today but above all that we will continue faithfully in the life and worship of the Church and engage in God’s Mission to His world which is what I believe Our Lord is calling us to.

+ Nicholas Blackburn
11 November, 2008

Again, my apologies, Fr. Kenyon. But at least it’s back, partly.