Women bishops debate: It's time to move on

Posted by Grace Baxter  ·  3 visitor comments

Women bishops - without doubt one of the most controversial issues facing the Church of England today, both theologically and practically.

Women Bishops

Creative Commons - (c) Scott Gunn

There are those arguing on both sides who passionately want what is best for the Church, holding firm to their interpretation of Scripture.

I wouldn’t dream of trying to advocate either position adequately in the space of a brief article; rather, what I’m interested in is how the recent delay in voting on the matter affects this debate, regardless of which side you fall on.

Certainly, this is not straightforward. The vote, which needs a two-third majority in each of the three Houses of the Synod, was due to take place on 9th July but was postponed after objection to a last minute amendment to the draft law.

This amendment would allow parishes not in support of women bishops to request a male bishop, who was sympathetic to their views, which in practice would mean he had not been ordained by a woman, nor ordained women himself.

This is not a time for the Church to bury its head in the sand, constantly buying time, attempting to forever put off what will always be a difficult issue.

Generally speaking, those in favour of women bishops are frustrated by the delay, whereas those against welcome it. Both positions can be sympathised with; certainly a last minute amendment is going to require extra consideration, especially given its nature, which, as those in favour of women bishops have noted, gives the impression that women bishops will still be ‘second class’.

So is the delay a good thing? Perhaps. Though the Church no doubt needs time to reflect on this latest tweak, I can’t help but wonder how much longer this can go on. It wouldn’t surprise me if when November comes around, there is another 11th hour adjustment which postpones any decision being made.

Of course this is not something to rush; it is an incredibly painful issue for the Church, sadly with much divisive power, and needs to be handled very carefully to avoid as much trauma as possible. But on the other hand, I’m not convinced the Church will be able to hold together in this limbo period for much longer either, constantly being pulled in two different directions.

I’m starting to think of this akin to a cashmere jumper (bear with me here) being stretched in different directions; it might not rip in two, but there’s a significant chance it will be left permanently stretched.

Our theology needs to shape our worldview, not the other way round

I’ve heard it suggested that it’s only fair the Church takes its time to consider this, given that the current position has 2000 years of tradition to back it, and therefore taking a few extra years to think it through is only reasonable. I am tempted to agree with this, but the Church has had 18 years to wrestle with the wider issue of women in leadership since it started ordaining women in 1994; debating women becoming bishops can hardly have come as a surprise, shall we say.

Ultimately, this is not a time for the Church to bury its head in the sand, constantly buying time, attempting to forever put off what will always be a difficult issue. Inevitably, one side will be let down, and as much needs to be done as possible to reconcile the two sides for the greater unity of the Church.

Our theology needs to shape our worldview, not the other way round, and so if this is at the heart of the Synod’s pondering in November, as I’m sure it will be, then I hope that a decision will be reached either way, with concern for the unity of the Church and a reverence for God’s Word as its priorities.

The Archbishop of Canterbury said that the delay gave a chance to ‘lower the temperature’ within the Church over the issue, and I think he’s right; such an important decision shouldn’t be rushed with such a last minute amendment. But I sincerely hope that this is not going to become the pattern for this issue, so that the Church can start to move forward, whichever direction that might be in.

20th July

July 20th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Grace Baxter

Thumbs Down0
Thumbs Up0

Did you find this article useful?

3 Visitor Comments

Join in the Eden community and comment on this article

Angus Cleaver

Angus Cleaver

Posts: 2

"concern for the unity of the Church and a reverence for God's Word as its priorities". The two are incompatible whilst there are those in the church who do not accept the authority of God's Word, so the latter has to be the sole criterion.

Friday, 20th July 2012 at 4:00PM

Reply to this comment

0Thumbs Down
0Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

Jacques More

Jacques More

Posts: 1

"In 1993 I was an advocate of male leadership not seeing a way through 3 passages until the Lord put the issue back on my plate and proceeded to show me a way through. This resulted in my book 14 years later on the matter. It was highly complimented by George Carey and I informed all the diocesan bishops in Spring 2010. Sadly very few took notice. I believe without appreciating the issue of deception Paul's writing on this is not addressed properly by any work out there." Jacques More

Thursday, 2nd August 2012 at 11:22AM

Reply to this comment

0Thumbs Down
0Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

Penny Culliford

Penny Culliford

Posts: 12

Thank God there are many man and women who fulfil his word to be an elder (which in this case can be translated as bishop). We need to pray for them. "An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 7 Since an overseer manages God's household, he must be blameless-not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it."

Tuesday, 4th September 2012 at 1:41PM

Reply to this comment

0Thumbs Down
0Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

Leave A Comment

Leave your comments or suggestions in regards to this article.

Most Popular Articles
Advent Reflection 9th December - Amy Boucher Pye
Posted on Friday 9th of December
Advent Reflection: 8th December - Kel Richards
Posted on Thursday 8th of December
Advent Reflection: 7th December - Davis Bunn
Posted on Wednesday 7th of December
Advent Reflection: 6th December - William Philip
Posted on Tuesday 6th of December
Advent Reflection: 5th December - Compassion
Posted on Monday 5th of December
Advent Reflection 9th December - Amy Boucher Pye
Posted on Friday 9th of December
Advent Reflection: 8th December - Kel Richards
Posted on Thursday 8th of December
Advent Reflection: 7th December - Davis Bunn
Posted on Wednesday 7th of December
Advent Reflection: 6th December - William Philip
Posted on Tuesday 6th of December
Advent Reflection: 5th December - Compassion
Posted on Monday 5th of December
What Are Eden Bundles?
Posted on Friday 11th of November
Creating an all age, fun, and messy church
Posted on Wednesday 28th of March

Updates from the live @Edencouk twitter feed!

Twitter Seperator
Don't forget to follow us @edencouk
Recent Article Comments
No Comments.

Nia Wright has made 0 posts.

34 useful comments

A Reader has made 0 posts.

16 useful comments

Les Ellison has made 54 posts.

10 useful comments

Lyn Myers has made 5 posts.

8 useful comments

James Warwood has made 4 posts.

8 useful comments

Last updated: 24 mins ago