Pete Broadbent to Conservatives, “The Game is Up” on Women Bishops in the CofE

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Pete Broadbent
Pete Broadbent

Pete Broadbent, the suffragen bishop of Willesden in the Diocese of London has written a post, “Women Bishops – where are we now?, on his personal blog about the current legislative crisis in the Church of England General Synod over women bishops. Pete is in favour of protection for conservatives but what he writes is going to be a massive disappointment if they thought he was going to fight for them.

Here’s his conclusion:

I would urge opponents to adopt realpolitik on this matter. It really is no good any more to argue for provision enshrined in law. The game is up.

For Broadbent the realpolitik in view is that Synod is simply not going to give conservatives the legislative provision they asking for. His argument contains a number of statements that deserve some questioning.

Consider these statements:

2.       There is a groundswell of opinion that Resolutions A & B and the existing Act of Synod are no longer tenable or credible.

I would hope that members of Synod can:

2. Recognise that the 1993 framework is no longer fit for purpose

4. Recognise that an Act of Synod in this context has become a toxic, totemic and divisive mechanism

in the light of this section from paragraph 12 of the recent working party report which Broadbent also cites as something that “I would hope that members of Synod can Embrace [in] totality”:

  • Pastoral and sacramental provision for the minority within the Church of England will be made without specifying a limit of time and in a way that maintains the highest possible degree of communion and contributes to mutual flourishing across the whole Church of England. 

And here is the, dare I say it, naïvety of Broadbent’s position and, indeed, of any conservative that will buy it (and I don’t think there will be many). On the one hand he wants us to believe that a new act of Synod will have provision “without specifying a limit of time” and then with the next breath urges us to abandon already legislated protections which we had already thought had no limit.

Simply put, conservatives are supposed to wave goodbye to legislated protection because of the “groundswell of opinion” in the Church and yet at the same time be confident that new non-legislated protection will have no time limit. If he can sell that there’s a roaring trade in the Sahara awaiting his skills.

It’s hard to see how Broadbent’s proposal is going to be accepted as “friendly” advice by those he claims to be concerned for. He states,

The sheer incredulity that most Bishops met in the parishes, in Parliament, in the media and in civic life that we had failed to deliver the legislation was pretty universal. I found myself constantly having to apologise for the CofE.

Apologise for what? For General Synod being concerned about providing the very protections that he also claims he is seeking for us? That seems rather incongruous but it does give us another little window into what is a major factor driving this whole debate. As one commentor on his blog put it,

Let’s not be conservative in the sense of conserving favour with a post-Christian culture that does what’s right in its own rather dim sighted eyes.

So where are we now? The turkeys, having narrowly avoided both Thanksgiving and Christmas by the closest of margins are now being told by one of their apparent champions that they ought to go for a fieldtrip to the butcher in time for Easter.

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  1. Pete Broadbent

    I’ve lived with this Measure all the way though its progress through Synod, including being on the Guildford Group (who proposed Transferred Episcopal Authority – TEA – for those opposed) and the Revision Committee for the Measure (where I tried, with others, to get provision into the Measure via delegation by force of law).

    I want ConEvos and TradCaths to stay in the CofE. But provision with the force of law doesn’t commend a majority in Synod, and will be seen by Parliament as discriminatory. So we have to find a way of getting maximum provision (proper bishops) for those opposed. If you read my blog entry, you’ll see that I spell out in Appendix A how the London Plan (which I just rewrote) works that out in practice. It gives real bishops for those parishes who are opposed, not just confirmations and pastoral care. The choice for those opposed is how long they keep insisting on legislation as the mechanism for achieving this. I’m just drawing attention to the reality (as I see it) that legislation won’t happen, and provision is in real danger of being whittled down to nothing. Opponents to women priests and bishops have a real choice to make. Keep on till the last ditch, or find a settlement now that will allow them to flourish and get on with the mission of God to bring the good news of Christ to all. I want to help the internal fightings to stop ASAP and move on, with my friends in Reform and FiF on board. This is an honest attempt to broker something. I know that there’s no trust. We have to rebuild it. But the legal route is probably a cul-de-sac.

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