The College of Bishops for the Anglican Church in North America met in conclave from September 5-7 in British Columbia, Canada. Here is the statement that they made at the conclusion of their time.
They met to discuss the report of the Theological Task Force on Holy Orders. The report itself is over 300 pages long and well worth the time it takes to digest it. You will see the careful thinking of the writers and you will learn a lot about church history and church polity. The report underlines the reality that every decision has decades of background and convictions that shape the assumptions which lead to the final conclusions.
In the social media space, many people have reacted to the report that lead into the conclave and then subsequently to the decision that was made by the College of Bishops at the conclave.
I want to give my brief thoughts as the pastor of Restoration Anglican Church in Arlington, VA. I speak for myself. Restoration is a church that joyfully affirms the leadership and gifts of women in every part of our life together. We have women who are elders (vestry members), small group leaders (for kids, youth, and adults who are male and female), and priests (ordained clergy). I want to be clear that not all of Restoration’s members agree with my view. But we live in charity with one another and we work in mission alongside each other.
My response to the College of Bishops Statement
Generally I was thrilled by the conclusions of the College of Bishops for 4 reasons:
- First it was unanimous. Currently, in the Anglican Church of North America, about 17 dioceses do not ordain women to the priesthood and 13 dioceses do ordain women to the priesthood. There is significant disagreement on this issue within our province. So to have a unanimous vote is quite incredible. By the grace and discernment of the Holy Spirit, they found words to articulate a way forward in which all the bishops could agree. Thanks be to God!
- Second, their statement does NOT say— we agree that some of us believe this and some of us believe that. We know there are differing opinions and convictions. Saying, ‘We disagree’ would have been a non-statement. Instead, they stated the elements where they found agreement and how our province could remain together even though there is disagreement on this issue. Thanks be to God!
- Third, the statement acknowledges that “Anglicans have differing principles of ecclesiology and hermeneutics that are acceptable within Anglicanism and lead to divergent conclusions regarding women’s ordination to the priesthood.” This statement affirms the beauty and charity of Anglicanism. We find our authority in the unchanging Scriptures and that people who trust the Bible have come to different conclusions on this issue. But we can stay in relationship with each other. Thanks be to God!
- Fourth, as expected, the bishops agreed that the ordination of women cannot be mandated across the whole province. The College of Bishops decided that each bishop and diocese will be able to make that decision for their diocese but not for other dioceses. To be clear, this is the way we talk about the leadership of women in our church, here at Restoration: all of us have to decide what we believe about the expression and use of gifts that God has given to women. You can make a Biblical case to limit the role of women and you can make a Biblical case for women to use their gifts in all aspects of the parish. Restoration strongly encourages women to lead, teach, and serve in every part of our church. Thanks be to God!
As always, feel free to reach out to me with questions or concerns. I love Restoration and I am grateful that our bishops have made a way for us to continue our Biblical practice of affirming the leadership, teaching, and serving gifts of women in our parish. Thanks be to God!