Women Bishops Will Sink the Church of England As They Have Done In the Episcopal Church
By David W. Virtue
July 12, 2010
If anyone had any doubt that the spiritual and ecclesiastical trajectory of the Church of England is towards The American Episcopal Church, their doubts were erased this past weekend in York.
The Synod of the Church of England voted to consecrate women to the episcopacy. They also voted summarily not to allow any sort of delegated episcopal pastoral oversight for Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics who in conscience do not want to have a woman bishop reign over them.
Wrote one orthodox Anglican blogger in the UK, "...The absolute refusal to compromise to the smallest degree signifies the rigidity with which women bishops will demand full recognition from everyone in the Church." He is right.
The Church of England ought to think seriously about women bishops and look hard at what has happened in the American Episcopal Church over the last 20 years.
Women Priests and Bishops
In July 1974, The Episcopal Church in the person of two retired and one resigned bishops irregularly ordained the "Philadelphia Eleven" to the presbyterate. The event caused great consternation among the church hierarchy. Later, the House of Bishops called an emergency meeting, denounced the ordinations and declared them invalid. Charges were filed against the dissident bishops. Attempts were made to prevent the women from serving their priestly ministries.
In 1990, 20 years later, Barbara Harris was ordained Suffragan Bishop of Massachusetts and the die was cast.
It was understood at that time that it would be optional for parishes and dioceses not to have a woman bishop and that no one would be coerced into having a woman bishop preach, confirm or celebrate communion. Consciences would be respected.
In July of 2000 at the 73rd General Convention, Harris successfully called for defeat of an amendment that would have allowed four dissenting bishops to continue denying ordination to women as long as they held office. She said, "The message such an amendment would send to the women of this church and those who support the ordained ministry of women in this church is that once again this house is engaged in a delaying tactic...To engage in further delay says to the women of this church, 'We do not value your ministry, even though God has called you.' "
It was the end of the road for any kind of toleration for the Anglo-Catholic bishops of San Joaquin, Quincy and Ft. Worth. In time, all three dioceses would leave the Episcopal Church. For liberal and revisionist bishops, exclusion became the operative word in the name of a higher inclusion, of course.
Today, there are 17 women bishops ranging from Harris, the first female bishop, to Glasspool, the last. Harris, now 80 and divorced, once described her sexuality as "ambiguous". Glasspool is an avowed lesbian. Only one, Bishop Geralyn Wolfe of Rhode Island, might be described as orthodox. It was she who deposed a black woman priest who declared she could be both an Episcopal priest and a Muslim at the same time. This took guts, as one doubts that a liberal or revisionist white male bishop would have had the temerity to dump her for fear of the Black Women's Caucus coming down on top of him for lack of inclusion.
Today, TEC has a woman Presiding Bishop who many think is about the worst of the worst. Not only is she not remotely orthodox in faith and practice, she preaches "another gospel" (Gal.1:7) that is no gospel at all. She believes that social amelioration through Millennium Development Goals will bring about the Kingdom of Heaven on earth where, presumably, she will be made CEO alongside our Lord, if indeed He is necessary at all.
So the big question is this, what have women bishops achieved in The Episcopal Church for the last 20 years?
A review of the dioceses where they have "ministered" is instructive.
TEC Dioceses with Woman Bishops and Average Sunday Attendance
Diocese of Connecticut: Bishop Laura Ahren Suffragan 2007-Present In 1998 the figure was 23,242.
In 2008: 18,747, a drop of 19%.
Diocese of Maine: Bishop Chilton Knudsen Diocesan 1998-2008 In 1998 the figure was 5,509.
In 2008 4,804 a drop of 13%
Diocese of Massachusetts: Bishop Gayle Harris Suffragan 2003 - present and Bishop Barbara Harris (not related.)
In 1998 the figure was 23,949. In 2008 the figure was 19,351 a drop of 19%.
Diocese of New York: Bishop Catherine Roskam Suffragan 1996-Present In 1998 the figure was 23,049.
In 2008 it was 20,459 a drop of 11%
Diocese of Newark: Bishop Carol Gallagher Assistant 2005-2007 In 1998 the figure was 10,961.
In 2008 it was 9,289 a drop of 18%
Diocese of Southern Virginia: Bishop Carol Gallagher Suffragan 2002-2005 In 1998 the figure was 13,150.
In 2008 it was 11,055 a drop of 16%
Diocese of Washington DC: Bishop Jane Dixon Suffragan 1992-2000 & Pro Tempore 2001-2002 --- Barbara Harris Assisting 2003-2007 In 1998 the figure was 16,911.
In 2008 it was 15,364 a drop of 9%
Diocese of Indianapolis: Bishop Catherine Waynick Diocesan Sept. 10, 1997 - Present & Coadjutor June 2007
In 1998 the figure was 5,087. In 2008 4,241 a drop of 17%.
Diocese of Vermont: Bishop Mary McLeod Diocesan 1993-2001.
For this period the numbers were 3,280 and concluded in 2001 it was 3,073 a drop of 13%.
Diocese of Rhode Island: Bishop Geralyn Wolf Diocesan 1996-Present.
In 1998 the figure was 8,174. By 2008 the figure was 6,078 down 26%.
Diocese of Texas: Suffragan Dena Harrison 2006-Present In 2006 the figure was 29,611.
In 2008 27,290 a drop of 10%.
Diocese of Eastern Oregon: Bishop Bavi Riveria Provisional 2009-Present --- Term ends 2012
The overall drop has gone from1,216 to 1,158, a drop of 5%
Diocese of El Camino Real: Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves Diocesan 2007-Present
In 2007 the figure was 5,279 by 2008 it was 4,750 a drop of 10%
Diocese of Los Angeles: Bishop Diane Bruce Suffragan 2010-Present & Mary Glasspool Suffragan 2010-Present No record
Overall trajectory of diocese:
1998 it was 23,654 by 2008 it was 19,991 down by 10% and 15% (First percentage change is 2003-2008; second percentage change is 1998-2008)
Diocese of Nevada: Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori Diocesan 2001-2006
In 2001 the figure was 2,561. By 2006 it was 2,223 a drop of 7.5%.
Diocese of Utah: Bishop Carolyn Irish Diocesan 1996-Present --- Retires November 2010
In 1996 the figure was 1,924. By 2008 it was 1,612 a drop of 16%
Diocese of Olympia: Bishop Bavi Rivera Suffragan 2005-2010
In 2005 the figure was 12,227. By 2008 it was 9,944 a drop of 23%.
2009 figures, not yet released by the national church, will indicate further decline owing to the emergence on the national scene of the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) which has siphoned off more than 100,000 Episcopalians in 800 parishes and four dioceses. 2010 will reveal no upward trend.
In terms of Average Sunday Attendance and general population growth in those dioceses, the losses have ranged from 21% (Maine) to 49% in Nevada (former diocese of Jefferts Schori).
The answer as to what women bishops in The Episcopal Church have achieved is nothing. If they were CEO's of small corporations, they would all have been fired for failure, at the very least, to maintain growth and expand it, that is, show a return (on the plate) for future growth. All these dioceses are contracting with an average parishioner age in the low to mid 60s with the average size congregation now below 70.
Research VOL has conducted shows that in every diocese where a woman has been made bishop, it has sunk deeper into the numerical quagmire. They have become infatuated with their own power (Barbara Harris being one of the best or worst examples, depending on your point of view) and they have followed the theological trajectory of white western liberal males with the added touch of empowerment, rights and tampons.
The most recent "power play" was the "nyet" imposed by the Archbishop of Canterbury on Jefferts Schori in refusing her the "right" to wear her miter in Southwark cathedral. It was thought that if she did wear it, thousands would flock to the altar, following a vigorous sermon on sin and salvation, and give their lives to Jesus in the midst of the third rendition of "I come to the Altar Alone".
The sad truth is the Church of England will follow The Episcopal Church. They will slowly collapse together as the Global South continues to present an unalloyed Biblical gospel and watch as "the Lord adds daily those who are being saved" to His church.
The Episcopal Church's homosexual agenda with its numerous "gay" priests and two openly "gay" bishops has followed the trajectory of women bishops. In the Church of England, the same homoerotic theology will follow the trajectory of women bishops. In both cases, the end will be the same.
Orthodox Anglican Fr. Michael Gollop said this, "We have seen the future in the U.S. and in Sweden, and only by the kind of linguistic gymnastics which would make Dr Goebbels blush could it be described as "inclusive" or "consonant with the Christian tradition."
The "rights" agenda is indivisible from the essentially secular philosophy and secularized theology of post-Christian Western countries that has lead to the ordination of women. By its own logic, it will have to include the gay and "transgendered."
As the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus once said, "Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed." That is clearly now what will happen in the Church of England. It has already occurred in The Episcopal Church.
---Mary Ann Mueller contributed to this story.
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