The Church of England has published the following Press Release on an 18-page report by Independent Reviewer, William Fittall, concerning a recent change of practice concerning the publication of the names of those due to preside at celebrations of Holy Communion in the Cathedral.
Wakefield Cathedral – report by Independent Reviewer William Fittall
The report by Sir William Fittall, Independent Reviewer in relation to the House of Bishops Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests, can be found at the link provided below.
On 1 March 2019, the Archbishop of Canterbury welcomed over 80 female priests to Lambeth Palace for a special service celebrating 25 years of women’s ordination to the priesthood in the Church of England. Speaking at the service, Archbishop Justin said:
“Many of those here today have been pioneers as they work out what it means to be an ordained woman in the Church of England – not just for themselves and their communities, but for the whole of the Body of Christ. Today let us bear witness to those who paved the way in 1994, as well as upholding those whose way into ministry has been opened up since.”
However, a minority of those within the Church cannot accept the ministry of women priests, and some of within this minority feel that they cannot remain in a place of worship when a woman priest is presiding. For these, advance knowledge of the celebrant is an important piece of information, and the Independent Reviewer addressed the issue raised by the change of practice instituted by the new Dean within a week of his institution.
At the end of his Report, Sir William said:
“. The Church of England, even though it has reached a clear and theological conviction on ministry and gender, has committed itself to enabling the minority to flourish within its life and structure. Denying brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ information which is not intrinsically confidential and which they need in order to act consistently with their theological conviction tends to undermine that commitment.”
He concluded :
- Whether a cathedral routinely publishes the names of celebrants on its service sheets and/or websites must remain for the judgment of the dean and chapter. I do not believe that the House of Bishops’ Declaration creates a presumption either way. The Dean of Wakefield was, therefore perfectly entitles to bring the practice at his cathedral into line with that of many (though not all) other cathedrals.
- Nevertheless, even where the identity of the celebrant at a service is not routinely published in advance, it should not be regarded as confidential information. It should, therefore be supplied with good grace to anyone who asks for it in advance so that they can make an informed choice over whether to attend a particular service in the light of their theological conviction in relation to the gender and ordained ministry.
- Reciprocity and mutuality mean that the majority and minority need to avoid putting stumbling blocks in the way of each other or giving offence: members of chapter need to act with generosity, forebearance and pastoral sensitivity to any cathedral worshipers – especially regular members of the cathedral community – who are unable to receive the sacramental minitry of women priests; similarly the latter need to show respect to all chapter clergy and seek to maintain the highest possible degree of communion.