Fourteen traditionalist bishops in the Church of England have written a letter to 1,400 clergy explaining that some faithful Anglicans are faced with “apparently irreconcilable differences” in matters of faith and order. Arguing that the plans to ordain women bishops will exclude substantial numbers of Anglicans, the letter calls for the respect of those who have come to believe they can no longer remain within the Anglican Communion.
The bishops write that they will support clergy who are unable to remain in the Church of England, but they also pledge to reach a better agreement for traditionalists who do not believe women should be consecrated to the episcopacy.
The letter is signed by three senior bishops: Bishop of Chichester John Hind; Bishop of Blackburn Nicholas Reade; and Bishop in Europe Geoffrey Rowell, the UK Telegraph reports.
Addressed to 1,400 clergy who have indicated they are considering leaving the Church of England, the bishops’ letter is highly critical of the Anglican General Synod’s decision to ignore proposals for compromise over the issue of women bishops.
The letter says the present plans would lead to the “inevitable exclusion of substantial numbers of faithful Anglicans from the Church of England.”
“Different decisions should be respected and supported, including that of those who have come to believe that fidelity to the faith we have received means that they can no longer remain within the communion of the Church of England.
"We are faced with apparently irreconcilable differences in matters of faith and order, and it is important to try to conduct all conversations and debates in a spirit of generosity even when church-dividing issues are at stake,” the letter continues, according to the Telegraph.
The letter tells clergy that the situation is not a “necessary conclusion” but the writers admit feelings of pain, bewilderment, and disappointment over the Church of England leaders’ decision to ordain women bishops without providing concessions to objectors.
Bishop Stephen Venner, a deputy of the Archbishop of Canterbury who supports the ordination of women bishops, last month said he felt “ashamed” no compromise had been reached.
“We have talked for hours about how to give an honorable place for those who disagree,” he stated.
"We have turned down almost every realistic opportunity for those who are opposed to flourish."