THE Anglican Bishop of Europe, the Rt Revd Geoffrey Rowell, is visiting the Anglican Chaplaincy in Majorca this weekend, and he took time out to talk to the Bulletin.
Q. What do you intend to do during your visit to Majorca?
A. This is one of many pastoral visits that I make. Part of the role of the Bishop of Europe is to visit the many chaplaincies and congregations, some 260, over the area between Madeira and Vladivostok and Casablanca and Trondheim.
This is my first visit to Majorca. I've been Bishop for just over three years but it does take time to get around.
This will be a very typical pastoral visit. I shall meet with the Chaplain, church wardens, and we have two confirmations, I will visit not only the church here in Palma but also the two other congregational centres.
Q How would you define the state of the Anglican church at the moment?
A. It is not all bad news. We are a growing diocese and there are new congregations and our problem is not how we can attempt to amalgamate village parishes, which is what many of my colleagues in England have to deal with, but where we should plan in an effective way as we cannot respond to every kind of need.
Q. What do you think about the ordination of women?
A. Personally, I belong to those who do not think it is something which should be taken in a unilateral way by any of the churches of the Anglican community. Within the politic Church of England, the agreement is certainly that if you are to be Bishop you need not ordain women to the priesthood but you are rightly required to recognise them as legally and canonically ordained. And if a chaplaincy in choosing a new chaplain, a process in which I am involved, says the best candidate is a woman priest, then that woman I will licence to that chaplaincy. In a week's time, in fact, I will actually be licencing a new woman chaplain in Lausanne in Switzerland.
It brings up all kinds of ecumenical questions which will be raised in the General Synod in ten days' time. I am a member of a working party on women bishops, which was asked to look at theological issues which needed to be addressed before the debate on the consecration of women bishops.
The report we produced, we tried to set it out clearly and logically and we hope that it will now inform a proper debate and discussion that there should be in the Church of England.
Q. Would you be happy if there were no women priests?
A. I think that we are where we are, and women have been ordained within the Church of England but have not been ordained in all provinces of the Anglican community. In 1972, the first meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, a new body brought into being to address how you relate in a global situation, had this controversial issue before it when it really hadn't found its feet and by a very narrow majority said it was something which ought to be left to the decisions of the local churches. I believe, experience has shown this is something that has repercussions so wide we need to have a way in which this is not taken as a local option but with full awareness of the consequences of doing this for ecumenical relations.
Q. Have these internal debates affected falling congregations?
A. Some people are fed up with the endless debates, but there are also some people who are glad the church is prepared to have a debate in the open.
Q. Why is the diocese based in Gibraltar?
A. For historical reasons. After the Reformation, members of the Church of England went to Europe in the 17th century, and the Bishop of London was given responsibility for Anglicans outside England, mainly in ports such as Rotterdam. After the Napoleonic Wars, people moved to France and Italy and there were trading relations right up to the Black Sea, so eventually the Bishop of London said he could not carry all of this. At that time by law you had to have a Cathedral in a place under the jurisdiction of the British Crown which left Gibraltar and Malta. For various political reasons, Gibraltar was chosen. It was later extended to cover northern and central Europe in 1980.