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"Women Bishops"

Oh dear. The Church does get itself in a stew, doesn’t it?

I’ll be honest – I struggled with the ordination of women. My understanding of the Bible was that women should not be in a position of leadership over men. However having met women who seem genuinely called and gifted for the Ministry, and who are annointed leaders, plus a re-examining of the scripture, I have to say I’ve changed my tune.

I believe it is quite possible to make a coherent case for not ordaining women. It’s also possible to make a coherent case for ordaining women, and it is this latter position that I’ve come to believe holds more weight. That combined with the fact that I’m not sure it’s actually a core issue. Did Jesus die and rise again? Was/is He the Son of God. These are core issues. The other stuff is important, yes, but secondary.

What I can’t see is tenable is to say you can ordain women to be deacons and priests, but not bishops. Or indeed, that you can ordain them to be bishops, but not “real” bishops.

The Church of England has decided that women can be ordained. Therefore they should be ordained to every office (including ABC) as led by the Spirit.

The problem is that there are those within the CofE who conscientiously dissent from this view. Most pressingly are those who have given up their livelihoods to serve the church, i.e. the stipendary clergy. These are people who passionately believe women should not be in leadership above men, and who entered a life of ministry and service on that understanding.

Equally, there are women who pressingly feel called in ministry, whose way is being barred by said dissenters.

So who wins? The men who don’t want women, or the women who do?

My 2p is to take a long term view, and accept that in many ways we are just a cog in history. Pass a 40th Article that states all ordinands must support the ordination of women, and be willing to submit to their authority, before they can be ordained.

Then wait for 40 years until every current deacon, priest, or bishop has retired. Lo and behold, no further opposition or need for Episcopal Oversight or any of that nonsense.

Men who feel called to the ministry, but dissent from the official position of the CofE on women need to find a new home (it’s called submitting to the leadership). But equally, no one who has given their life to the ministry on the ‘old’ position is forced (unfairly) to either change their views or leave the church.

The Big Problem with this, is that we effectively “write off” a generation of women leaders from the ministry, and you could say that a generation of male leaders “get their way”. I suppose I would say that the CofE has not had ordained women for 500 years (longer before that as the Catholic church) – for the sake of unity and moving forward together could we give it another 40? But I don’t know that can we really ask a generation of women to lead by example and make this sacrifice?

I’m sure it wouldn’t take as long as 40 years. I’d be surprised if any candidate for ordination today can be against the ordination of women, given the reality of women priests and the no-doubt imminent reality of women bishops. Plus I think it’s increasingly rare for ordinands to be much under 25 or 30 (although I don’t have stats to back that up).

I’m not so self-unaware to not realise that I’m writing this as a man. I’m happy inviting an entire generation of would-be women leaders to make a sacrifice that I don’t have to. I suppose all I can say is that Christianity, and leadership, is fundmentally rooted in service and sacrifice. In some ways while “sides” exist at all, let alone trying to get their own way, we are failing as the body of Christ…

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