Tuesday, 20 November 2012

"No" to Women Bishops

File:Logo of the Church of England.svgThis blog clearly is about Adam, but tonight the decision by the General Synod of the Church of England is weighing so heavily on me that I want - need - to write about it.  Many of you will know that I am an Ordinand for the CofE (training to be a vicar) and so the issue of how and if women are accepted in ministry within the church holds particular significance for me.  The issues involved in today's debate, and the debates occurring for generations now, are very complex and while I could attempt to explain them all, others far more suited for the task have done so already.  

I fully understand that this issue is not one purely of gender equality, but one of theological conviction - in other words, people read the Bible in different ways and interpret those readings equally differently.  But tonight, what I see in the women around me, women at college training for ordination, women already ordained as priests, and women serving at all levels of the church is utter heartbreak.  Tonight is not, should not, be for continuing to debate theological differences but for recognizing that fellow members of our church are deeply hurting.  It has been said that after the vote, it was inevitable that someone would be hurting or angry but it breaks my heart to see so many faithful women who have sacrificed so much to follow the call of God on their life who tonight are in tears.  Who tonight are ragingly angry.  Who tonight are despairing.  Who tonight, for some, are considering leaving the church.  Who tonight, for others are struggling to find ways to remain faithful to a church which appears so bitterly divided.  Who tonight, are trying to touch the edges of what they will preach in their churches on Sunday.  Of what they will say to women in their congregations seeking Confirmation.  Of how they will walk through their towns and villages wearing their clerical collars.  Of how they will continue.

I am heartbroken at how many women are feeling utterly devalued and worthless in the eyes of the church.

It will come as no surprise for me to write that I am in favour of women bishops.  I believe men and women are equal in the eyes of God and perhaps more importantly, I believe that if God calls a person to ministry, then we as humans should not stand in their way - of course the church must test and weigh that calling to be sure they are in agreement, but I believe it is self-evident that God calls many people to ministry, including those with whose viewpoint, others may disagree.  Tonight, I have seen women whose ministry, leadership, character and gifts I greatly value and appreciate, crying.  This is a sad day for the church.

Prior to being recommended for training to the ministry, I regularly worshipped with a congregation in which some members felt unable to accept women in ministry.  I disagreed with those people...but I still respected them.  I was still willing to worship alongside them.  I disagreed with their views but I never stopped liking them as people, nor of respecting their right to hold these views.  Now, based on training for ministry, I only rarely am able to attend this church but this has not changed my view of these people as committed Christians.  As faithful members of the wider church.

Yet for me, it comes down to this:  42 out of 44 dioceses in the Church of England voted in favour of this measure.  So why has it been rejected?  I ask this question not to gain an answer because I have sat listening to the live feed from Synod all day (when I should have been researching my latest essay).  I have heard the many arguments for and against, I have heard the passionate disagreements...but in the end, I see the tears of women all around me.

This is a sad day for the Church of England.

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