Thursday, 17 July 2008

A statement from Fr Jonathan Baker SSC

I have just returned from London after attending the extraordinary meeting for the executive of the Federation of Catholic Priests to find that Fr Jonathan Baker SSC, the Principal of Pusey House in Oxford, has today issued a statement. This is posted in this blog. Fr Baker is admired for his learning, wisdom and leadership qualities and holds the respect of all the clergy and faithful of this constituency and of many beyond. I respect the painful decision that Fr Baker has taken, it points out the reality of the facts after the debate of that bleak and cruel Monday in General Synod. Fr Baker has all my supoprt, respect, admiration and prayers. Please hold him in your prayers too at this difficult time.

A Statement from Fr Jonathan Baker
I have submitted my resignation from the Women Bishops Legislative Drafting Group to its Chairman, the Bishop of Manchester.

General Synod has asked the WBLDG to bring forward a Code of Practice in February 2009 as part of draft legislation on the ordination of women to the episcopate for first consideration in that group of sessions. The Code is intended to provide pastoral and sacramental care for those unable to accept this development.

I am unable to commend simple draft legislation which is coupled with a Code of Practice to Synod and the wider Church, and therefore consider it inappropriate that I continue to serve on the committee charged with so doing.

I have argued consistently that a Code of Practice cannot address the fundamental ecclesiological and sacramental concerns of those opposed to the ordination of women to the episcopate. The implementation of simple legislation and a Code of Practice will effectively bring to an end the period of open reception on the disputed question of the ordination of women which has enabled members of the Church of England with differing views to live together in one Church since 1994. A Code of Practice can, therefore, be only short-term provision, lacking theological integrity as well as legal security.

The vote on the 7th July in York (which anticipates, among other things, the abolition, rather than the development, of the ministry of the Provincial Episcopal Visitors) leaves the Church of England facing a real pastoral, as well as legal and theological, problem, of how to honour its commitment to provide an assured and equal place for those unable to accept the ordination of women to the episcopate. While my contribution to the particular work of the WBLDG is now complete, I remain wholly committed to playing my part, not least with Forward in Faith, in seeking a way forward for the Church.

I am glad to be able to take this opportunity of thanking the Bishop of Manchester, my former colleagues on the WBLDG, and the staff of Church House who served that Group so ably, for the constructive way in which the work of the Group, in its first phase, was carried out, and for the respect and careful attention which they all accorded the views which I set out.

Jonathan Baker
17th July 2008

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