In a Process of
An interview with Bishop Edwin Barnes
By the Rev'd Michael Hawkins
The Church of England followed the trend set by the North American Anglican Churches in tbe l970's when it began in 1994 to ordain women as priests. Yet unlike the North American churches, which quickly began to harass and marginalize those opposed in conscience to the ordination of women, the Church of England officially decided to treat its conservatives with a genuinely liberal spirit, and enacted firm practical measures to safeguard their religious liberty.
Bishop Edwin Barnes plays a key role in carrying out this policy, as one of the bishops given a roving commission to minister to "traditionalist" parishes. He was in Halifax last fall, preaching on various occasions at King's College, meeting with local Anglicans, and speaking with the Rev'd Michael Hawkins. An edited text of that interview follows:
What is your present office in the Church of England-- can you give us the actual title?
Yes. I'm the Bishop of Richborough. Richborough is a ruined Roman fort which has a redundant power station there as well; but more importantly, it's the first place mentioned in Bede's Ecclesiastical History. It's the place where the Romans landed. As a Roman Catholic friend of mine said, it's also the place nearest, in England, to Rome, by necessity. It's a suffragan see of Canterbury, and I actually have Canterbury in my care, you might say; so that that's quite amusing. It does mean I'm a suffragan of Canterbury Diocese as well as a Suffragan of the Province of Canterbury.
You are a PEV, which stands for...
...which stands for Provincial Episcopal Visitor. Provincial because my license is across the Province of Canterbury, Episcopal is what I am, and Visitor because I get into parishes wherever I'm invited.
How were you selected for this particular work?
The Archbishop said that he wanted somebody to do the job who had some experience. He wanted somebody who had had to deal with bishops, and I've done that, especially in my last job as Principal of St. Stephen's House, and on the General Synod, and on the standing committee of the Synod. He thought I would be able to talk to diocesan bishops and help them understand our position.
Would you outline, for our readers, the situation in England today, vis-a-vis the ordination of women?
Well, what the General Synod has said, (and this ties in, I think, with what the Eames Commission has said), is that the matter is not resolved by decision of one province or even 100 provinces; it's something that the whole church has to decide about, and that will take a long time. We are in a process which the former Archbishop of York, John Habgood, called a process of discernment. Because of that process of discernment, it's perfectly possible for Anglicans to be of either opinion concerning the ordination of women-they can be very supportive or they can be opposed on a variety of reasons.
What the Act of Synod, which the bishops passed unanimously in England, says is that those of us who are opposed have an honoured place in the Church of England but there must be no discriminating against us-either for high office or indeed, for selection for the priesthood in the first place; and that as far as the eye can see almost, (they don't quite use that phrase,) but certainly for a very long time, there will have to be provision for people of our opinion because discernment means that it is possible that the church was wrong in what it did, and we have to take into account what the Eastern and Western churches say. Ultimately, perhaps, maybe 50, maybe 500 years down the line, we shall know the will of God in this matter-- but we don't yet.
You talk about a very long time, and the question I'm sure many people in Canada as well as the United States would wonder is, what a long time is, because in our experience it seems to have lasted about 10 years. The Provincial Episcopal Visitors, as I understand it, are meant to enable many people to remain in the Church of England. What about the long term?
Well, I think it's not just to enable people to remain in the Church of England. It's to enable the truth to be revealed-to give us time to see that. It may be that the good Lord in His good time, will say "you have done something profoundly wrong and you've got to backtrack". That's perfectly possible, and the Archbishop of York again said as much in his speech in the Synod. He said that although he, himself, was personally convinced this was right, it still was conceivable that it was wrong-and if it was wrong, then it would have to be undone in some way.
Do you feel secure then, or do traditionalists in general feel secure, in the Church of England these days?
I think we would say we are feeling more secure than we have felt for a long time. I think we had been discriminated against, even before the vote on the ordination of women. It's only since then that our position has been secured by the Act of Synod, by the creation of the Provincial Episcopal Visitors; and I find that more and more people are gradually waking up to the fact that this is not about one issue-that there are many things bound up. They call it a liberal agenda which is not, perhaps, a very helpful phrase, but there are many issues which seem to be of the spirit of the age rather than of what the Church does and has done, and we are having to find out whether these things are indeed of God, whether He is leading us into all the truth or whether, in fact, we are being led somewhere quite differently by someone quite different.
Why do you object so strongly to the ordination of women?
I think it's a matter, for me, of something so novel in the Church's life that it will take a great deal of persuading that it must be right. It appears to be tied up with a political agenda, a politically correct agenda, and with feminism. Now, it may be that the Lord is leading his Church down these paths, but in the past we've always checked things out against scripture and against the tradition. There's nothing in Scripture that implies that women should be priests; and there's certainly nothing in the tradition that does; and therefore the burden of proof lies with those who want to make innovations and they have not proved it to my satisfaction or that of many other people yet.
How do traditionalists (and I imagine this is a concern of yours, particularly as a pastor in England) avoid turning themselves-- turning the Church-- into a kind of protest group?
Well, because of course, there are so many other things that matter, and we have so much more in common with our fellow Christians of any denomination let alone with the Church of England than we have with society at large. This ought, really, to be put on the back burner-this whole business of the ordination of women-while we get on with the much more important thing of the evangelization of the largely pagan society.
Can you tell us something about how you, as a Provincial Episcopal Visitor, relate to groups such as "Forward in Faith" or "Reform?"
Well, on a personal level, very well indeed. I have a lot of friends in Forward in Faith and a lot of friends in Reform, and that, largely, through my time in General Synod. At the moment, most of what I do tends to be with Forward in Faith rather than with Reform though they've been approaching me lately and I think there will be some meetings soon after I get back.
Forward in Faith is a sort of umbrella organization which has a lot of very diverse people in it. They are very good at organizing; they produce (you've probably seen it) this thing called New Directions which is a very good monthly paper. They are also good at organizing meetings, rallies-- because I think people do need encouraging at the moment, and these things serve a good purpose.
The last thing I did before coming to Canada, last Saturday, was concelebrating a wonderful Eucharist in St. Paul's Cathedral, where Mother Teresa of the Walsingham Sisters preached, and the Bishop of Edmonton [U.K.] was the presiding bishop. There were five bishops; there were about a hundred priests; there were a couple of thousand people filling St. Paul's Cathedral. That was typical of the sort of thing that only Forward in Faith is able to organize at the moment.
That raises the question, talking about their ability to act as an umbrella group, about the relations in England between Anglo-Catholics and Evangelical Anglicans.
I think this has been one of the very good things that has come over the last two or three years. First of all, Anglo-Catholics are much less likely to judge people on account of the amount of lace they wear or what particular rite they use. Secondly, we find far more in common with our Evangelical brethren than ever we had supposed, and they with us. We find that we're speaking the same sort of language of faith, that we actually believe in a revelation that an awful lot of the church seems to have given up on. We're finding that we can do far more together than ever we could in the past.
Do you see, officially or unofficially, a realignment of Christians in England and in the church in the West in general?
We've had, at St. Stephen's House, for some years - since what they call the revolution in 1989-Eastern Orthodox students studying with us. I've visited Romania and been a guest of the Orthodox Church there. I find tremendous commonality between our two Churches. I feel immensely at home in that sort of setting. I believe that we may very well find that there are, in Roman Catholicism, in the Lutherans and many reform churches, among the Orthodox and among Anglicans, so much in common that we will find that we really are talking the same language and there will be a realignment. Yes, that's quite possible.
What is your view and how aware are the people in England of the situation in the Episcopal Cburch in the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada?
I think we are rather ignorant, really. I mean, all through the ordination of women debate, there were two views put forward. In Synod debates and elsewhere, people would say they had been to North America; they had found that everybody had accepted the ordination of women-there were no problems with it; everyone was at home with it, on one hand. The other side would say it's been totally disastrous; the church is falling apart; and there is great unhappiness. We never knew which to believe. I think we've really had to do an awful lot of work in finding out rather more about what the situation is.
At a recent meeting of traditionalist bishops, Bishop Geoffrey Rowell presented to us some of the material which is used in the church in Canada for discerning whether a person has a vocation or not; and this seemed quite extraordinary, and it's one of the things I want to ask your suffragan bishop about when I meet him. It did seem as though there was a sort of test which was nothing to do with the faith of the church, or vocation, but was all to do with political correctness. I really need to be reassured about this.
What can you tell us about the rest of the Anglican Communion and its relation to the ordination of women and other issues in the Communion?
I think what we need to recognize is that the greater part of the Anglican Communion now is black, and is in what we in the West choose to call the Third World. I think that some parts of those churches, for instance in South Africa, have embraced the idea of the ordination of women, tying it up with political freedom. Other parts, particularly in East Africa for instance and in Nigeria, have been very resistant to the idea because they see this as something which is not of the Gospel. I think we have to do a great deal of listening, we in the so-called First World. I think both North Americans and British have to be much more humble than ever we've been, and we actually have to listen to what our fellow Christians are saying; because, unless we do, we will be using a sort of colonial domination which was very horrid in the past and could be worse now.
Can you tell us something of the situation in England and perhaps, we would welcome as well, something of your own Postition on questions such as "inclusive language" for God in the liturgy and in Scripture translations.
I find it hard enough even that the Bible gets bowdlerized in its inclusive language for human beings. I was looking at one of the translations that is used here and in England-the Epistle of James. Now, I did a little study on the Epistle of James at one time, way back, and I found it very interesting that sections in the Epistle compared with the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs* and it is quite clear to me that St. James is thinking in terms of the twelve tribes of Israel. So when somebody translates adelphoi [the Greek word for "brothers"] as "...my brothers and sisters", he's doing damage to what the Scripture is actually saying and he is making it impossible to read Scripture properly. I mean, he loses the whole thrust of what the Scripture is about. To try and do that to the Godhead is madness because we will be totally deceived. God has no passions, parts-the Godhead is not male or female. Certainly, our Lord himself was male; and to try to get away from talking about the Son of God, or talking about God as Lord, is a parody of Christianity in the end.
We face, in our country at the moment, a hymn book that's coming out. We've seen some of the words, though not the music, and the hymn book includes the worship of a god called "Mother" and referred to as "she". I wonder how you think that Christians can relate to other Christians who think that these things are all right and, in fact, are compatible with the Gospel and with faithfulness to Christ.
I think we have to tell them it's wrong-I really do. I believe that to distort the Blessed Trinity is so profoundly wrong that it's better not to try to call yourself Christian. Invent a new religion, do your own thing, be as inclusive as you like, but realize that this is not the gospel which is salt and leaven and which is disturbing to society.
Are all traditionalist Parishes in the Church of England under a Provincial Episcopal Visitor?
No, not at all. First of all they have to vote on the matter, and many of them have chosen not to because they think it's rather divisive to vote on it. Secondly, they have to get a two-thirds majority in the church council, and that's difficult even on whether or not you want to shut the window. So it certainly is on whether you want a PEV. The Archbishop has made it very clear that we may be invited by any parish-whether it has taken the PEV option or not. We are suffragans of Canterbury, our licences are provincial licences and so, I go to many parishes which are not, technically, PEV parishes.
How many parishes do you have under your care?
Well, I suppose potentially you might say I have half the parishes of the southern province. I think, to be realistic, it runs into several hundred. It's far too many for one person.
So, you don't have an idea of the number of parishes that would be associated with the three dioceses, in total?
At the time of the vote, it was about a third. I know that priests have left, and I know parishes have become disheartened and fallen apart. I would still feel that it's probably a quarter of the Church of England, and that represents something like 2,500 parishes.
Now, with three more senior bishops heading up these three dioceses as PEVs in England, it makes one wonder about the future, and I wonder how are traditionalists assured, in England, that there will be a possibility of ordinands with traditionalist mind and an orthodox mind on questions like ordination or liturgy or Scripture or language for God or Christian morality. How do you feel, and, how are you assured that such people will be able to be ordained in the future?
The three PEVs are not, of course, the sum total of traditional bishops. It is very good that the new Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, is a traditionalist. Archbishop David Hope of York is of our persuasion as well. There are several other bishops and what the Act of Synod said is that it expects that there will be suffragans and, indeed, diocesan bishops appointed of our opinion. So, it's for all of us to guard the faith. That's what our Job is, and that means guarding the position of ordinands, and I believe that they are being treated more fairly now than they were, let's say, five years ago; and guarding the position of the theological colleges though that is increasingly difficult because of the financial burden on the colleges. It looks as though the Church of England might, in the end, have most of its people trained on part-time courses. Then we would have to monitor those courses much more carefully, because they do tend to attract very liberal members of staff.
As a Suffragan of Canterbury, are you allowed to ordain?
Yes, indeed, it was specifically spelled out in my own consecration and it looks as though my first ordination may be this summer, of a young man who trained at St. Stephen's House and will be going to a parish in the south of England which has taken the PEV option. Yes, certainly, and my colleague, John Richards, has already done a good number of ordinations as has the Bishop of Beverley in the northern province.
What words of encouragement do you have for many in Canada, and perhaps elsewhere, who are so discouraged by the direction of our denomination?
Sometimes directions have to be changed; and sometimes, perhaps, as part of the Anglican Communion, a trend-setting diocese or a trend-setting province has to be brought up short and given pause to think and I hope that the Lambeth Conference, for instance, will give North America some reason to think-as the Eames Commission might have done-to consider whether they haven't been precipitous in some of the things they have done, and perhaps they haven't been a bit too wholehearted in some of those things... no doubt done for good reasons. But if you do the wrong thing for the right reason, then the result is no less bad.
What do you think that the ordinary Christian layman can do in the face of what seems to be, in this country, the church's desire to destroy itself?
Well, they can vote with their feet, of course, and some of them are doing-and that's terrible because that just adds to the destruction. They can remain, and its very painful for many of them, but they can remain and they can be faithful; they can say their prayers, and they can continue to tell the powers that be that they were wrong. That's very hard, but it's a great vocation that many people seem to have nowadays.
The Rev'd Michael Hawkins is Rector of the Parish of Petite Riviere and New Dublin in the Diocese of Nova Scotia.
* Note: The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs is an apocryphal work which purports to be the the deathbed messages given by the twelve sons of Jacob to their respective descendants-- the twelve tribes of Israel. Bishop Barnes' point is thus that the Epistle of James alludes to this work in its address to the "Twelve Tribes ... my brethren" (James 1:1), and that to translate "brothers" as "brothers and sisters" destroys this literary allusion.
This interview first appeared in the Petertide 1996 Vol. 13, No. 2 Edition of the Anglican Free Press, produced by the St. Peter Publications, Inc..
A Prayer for the Church O ALMIGHTY God, who by thy Son Jesus Christ
didst give to thy Apostle Saint Peter many excellent gifts,
and commandedst him earnestly to feed thy flock:
Make, we beesch thee, all Bishops and Pastors diligently to preach thy Holy Word,
and the people to follow the same, that they may receive the crown of everlasting glory;
through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Canadian Book of Common Prayer, p. 283.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ A January 1997 Update ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The Electronic Telegraph
BISHOP BANS MEDIATOR FROM SCOTLAND
THE Bishop of Edinburgh has reignited controversy over women priests by banning one of the "flying bishops" appointed to mediate from speaking in Scotland.
The Most Rev Richard Holloway, who last week signed a Church Times article in which he advocated voting Labour, invoked a little-used canon law to prevent Bishop Edwin Barnes, the Bishop of Richborough, from visiting Dundee, Bridge of Weir and Kilmacolm next month.
Bishop Barnes, appointed to restore calm in parishes where opposition has been fiercest despite personally crossing paths with the Archbishop of Canterbury, is now unable to give planned sermons in the parishes.
Dr Holloway, the leader of the Episcopal Church in Scotland, and the Rt Rev John Taylor, the Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway, are understood to object to Bishop Barnes's outspoken view that ordaining women is "silly".
Last night the move was criticised by Scottish clergy who still hope that something can be salvaged from the trip. It is understood that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, has written to Dr Holloway but has decided not to interfere publicly.
English clergy wishing to preach in Scotland normally ask permission of the bishop in the diocese. It is a formality and permission is usually granted. The bishops have formally silenced Bishop Barnes by using the canon law of "inhibition" which means he cannot speak from any Scottish pulpit.But it does not affect his ability to preach in Anglican churches in England.
The Rev Paul Harvie, rector of St Salvador's in Dundee, who invited Bishop Barnes to speak to his congregation, said: "It is something of an over-reaction and it does seem to be a bit like censorship. It is most unusual to inhibit a fellow Anglican in a time of Christian unity.
"It does raise several big issues. One is that the Scottish bishops promised to provide pastoral care for those who are opposed to the ordination of women, and are now seeming to refuse to do it."
Mr Harvie said he hoped Bishop Barnes would go ahead with the visit to Dundee on Feb 3. He said he might attend a special service to celebrate Candlemas and speak afterwards in the church hall. His plans to visit St Mary's in Bridge of Weir and St Fillan's in Kilmacolm have been abandoned.
Allan Campbell, an expert in episcopal canon law, said: "This is unique given that the speaker is prominent and from another church in the Anglican communion."
Dr Holloway is an outspoken supporter of women priests. Bishop Barnes, on the other hand, is employed by Lambeth Palace to smooth the waters over the issue, although he is known to be equally outspoken and was summoned by Dr Carey in November 1995 to explain some of his comments.
Bishop Barnes was unavailable to comment on the row. A Lambeth Palace spokesman said Dr Carey had no plans to interfere. However, it is understood that the Archbishop has written a private letter to Dr Holloway, who has been involved in numerous public controversies.
Last week he was criticised for endorsing the Labour Party. He has also supported homosexual rights, criticised the "pomposity and self-importance" of some bishops, and said in a lecture in 1995 that God had given men "promiscuous genes".
He was unavailable for comment yesterday, but the Scottish Episcopal Church issued a statement saying he was acting as primus in his temporary position as Acting Bishop for the vacant diocese of Brechin, which includes Dundee. The statement added that, after the General Synod admitted women to the priesthood in 1994, a small group wished to follow the Church of England line and appoint flying bishops.
However, the Scottish Episcopal Church did not go down that road because it believed it would create "a church within a church".
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