The Revd Stephen Keeble (different spelling; no relation) is a tenacious man. Seeking episcopal oversight under current arrangements in the Church of England, his PCC made a series of related stipulations: that episcopal ministry be entrusted
to a male bishop who stands in the historic, Apostolic, and sacramental succession of bishops so ordained;
(ii) at whose consecration a male bishop who had not consecrated a woman as a bishop presided;
(iii) whose marital status conforms with Apostolic teaching and practice expressed in the historic teaching and practice of the Church of England; and
(iv) who ordains only men to the priesthood.
They have brought an action against the Bishop of London for failing to supply their needs.
The recently elevated Sir William Fitall, charged with the adjudication of such cases, declared that requests (i) and (vi) were covered by the current regulations, but that (ii) and (iii) were not, and that they could only be construed as deriving from a doctrine of ‘taint’.
This is a curious decision, which seems to deny opponents of women’s ordination any coherent theological position, condemning them to mere naked sexism.
Point (ii), after all, is merely an expansion of (i) and (iii) is a perfectly reasonable request, considering the Church of England’s long history of opposition to remarriage after divorce (and plain scriptural injunctions in the matter of married bishops). Mr Keeble’s PCC, it should be abundantly apparent, is not acting upon a doctrine of ‘taint’, but is valiantly seeking to uphold a coherent and consistent position in the face of the issues-led inconsistency which surrounds them.
True, an objection on moral grounds (in this case to Bishop Jonathan Baker) is not envisaged in the Bishops’ Guidelines. But is Sir William suggesting that a male bishop, of whatever breach of moral discipline he may be guilty, can be imposed on a parish simply because he is male and because current provisions make no mention of the lapse? A gay man in a declared relationship? A married transsexual? Both of which cases are pending or probable.
It seems that the Church of England, in its determination to uphold the integrity of women’s ministry, can only view those who continue to uphold the Church’s perennial teaching as prejudiced bigots.
A position which it clearly intends to prefer to reason and principle.