Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Women Bishops: They Think It's All Over ...

Sorry for the long absence.  I've had two essays to write, and I read far too much and it took weeks to get under control.

So, women bishops.  I won't lie to you, I was bitterly disappointed.  But we (if I can include myself as a CofI not CofE member) are not back at square one.  By the sound of some reporters and commentators, you'd think the church had just decided a woman's place is in the home.

First of all, the vote was lost only very, very narrowly, and it will most likely pass next time round.  Pity that's a few years off, but hey we have to work with the system we're in.

Secondly, in all three Houses (Bishops, Clergy and Laity) there was a strong majority in favour.  The Church is overwhelmingly pro-women bishops.  Support is strongest among the most senior figures in the Church, with both Archbishop Williams, Archbishop Sentamu and Archbishop-Elect Welby.

Thirdly (aren't I organized), the very fact that the CofE is talking about a change that is monumental in its history, speaks volumes about its willingness to change and learn.

Fourthly, isn't it great that the Church has the opportunity now to work even harder to get things right and bring opponents along with supporters?  If this were to be pushed through earlier than people are ready for it, then it might cause more conflict.  Bear in mind also that the arrangements for espiscopal oversight for people who can't accept a female bishop have to be got right.  If the wrong arrangements are made in order to get this through faster, we could end up with women as a lower tier of bishops.

Conflict and diversity of opinion are inevitable, and mature people and organizations can handle them.  So, hats off, Church of England, for talking it all through.  Critics are talking of a dead church, but as Sentamu said yesterday, dead bodies don't talk.

The same issues were around in Paul's time, and he knew that as a secondary issue (not meaning unimportant, but not fundamental to proclaiming Christ) different cultural allowances and checks might be necessary for the sake of unity, all the while maintaining his firm belief that:

              There is neither Jew nor Gentile, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither
              male nor female; for you are all one in the Messiah, Jesus. (Gal. 3:8)

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