THAT WOMEN BISHOP THING

Pardon me, folks, for posting several times in one day – it’s usually against my principles 😉

But the media are bellyaching about how the (stupid) Church of England has voted against having women bishops.

No such thing. The C of E voted about 2 years ago in favour of women bishops. That is not the issue. It is just lazy media reporting, as usual. We will definitely have women bishops. That’s already agreed and decided.

The big problem is, how does the church ‘include’ those clergy and laity who in all good conscience cannot accept them?

When the Synod voted for women to become priests, in the 1990s, they agreed to have a system whereby those clergy and churches who did NOT agree with it, could have ‘special oversight’ by a bishop who also did not agree with women priests. (They were nicknamed flying bishops, or ‘alternative oversight’).

And before they are called all the names under the sun for being stupid and bone-headed, I do happen to know some of these people, who are very genuine, and deeply distressed by the whole thing, and have really done some very serious thinking and praying, and listened hard to those they disagree with.

In my last diocese, the senior women clergy used to meet regularly with the male priests who did not agree with women priests. They had lunch together, they talked deeply and argued passionately, and they prayed together.

I was proud of them. That’s how it should be. Sometimes we must agree to differ, without throwing brickbats at each other or dehumanising each other with angry, critical language.

Although sometime it’s easier said than done, I don’t think that lets us off the hook of trying.

Anyway, to get back to the current argument, I have not followed it in all its detail because frankly, it gets very tedious :zz: But it is about what happens to those clergy and churches who don’t agree in conscience with women bishops. Should they be able to have their own bishops? In which case, doesn’t that make women bishops ‘second class’? Or should they trust their bishop, if she’s female, to invite a bishop who can support their views for them?

The General Synod has to get two-thirds of the vote in all three houses – the house of bishops, of clergy and of laity. It passed easily in the houses of bishops and clergy. But in the house of laity the voting was laity 132 in favour, 74 against.

My personal take on this is, we must find a way to live together. I am not prepared to chop off the dissidents – just because the church has practised what we now think of as sexism, does not give us the right to exclude those who disagree with us in the same way. Let’s learn the lessons, for heavens’ sake.

Anyway, something else for Justin Welby to sort out … hope you’re feeling strong, Justin!

PS the Anglican church already has women bishops in other countries, such as the States and Australia.

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39 thoughts on “THAT WOMEN BISHOP THING

    1. Not sure how clear I’ve been … oh the dear old Church of England, she’s like an annoying Mum, you love her dearly but sometimes you could box her ears … 8| 😉

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    1. Yes, it is a mess. I am sorry that my church puts people off the Christian faith. It’s a disgrace. But I think I would find that there is just as much disagreement within Buddhism. We need to be open to God and to what He’s saying, and to be humble with each other.

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  1. The one factor about this argument that riles me is the make-up of the General Synod of the Church of England, which by definition is the governing body giving the laity more say in the decisions of the Church. Who elects either the Bishops, or the members of the House of Laity? Certainly not the average Churchgoer! The last time I can remember any plebiscite in the Church was over the ordination of Women priests. This was carried out by asking the members of PCC’s what they thought the congregations’ feelings were on this thought. At this, each PCC took a majority vote. This vote was then taken to the Deanery synod, where another majority vote was taken. The votes of every Diocese was then put before the General Synod. A rather complex way of finding out the feelings of the general congregation, and one that was hopelessly flawed in it’s results.Follow this through in a simplistic way:-
    1. In Deanery a) we have 4 parishes. Of the 4 Parishes, P a) has a congregation of 1000, of whom 999 are in favour. In parishes b) c) and d) there are average congregations of 50, of whom there are only 20 in each in favour. This makes the feelings in the Deanery, where some 1599 were in favour, whilst some 61 were against.

    2. Take this voting to Deanery Synod, and the voting then becomes For, 1 parish, Against 3 Parishes. This follows that when the voting is taken to Diocesan Synod, the Deanery must vote against.

    If this is repeated, there is no way that the House of Laity can speak for the Laity – and you can change the numbers for to against, and it still does not add up.

    In my own particular Parish, when the vote for/against Women Priests was 10 against, and 2 for and as such the vote at Deanery Synod was that my church was against
    Incidentally, the only two members of my parish to vote for the Ordination of Women were the only two MALE members, myself and a Churchwarden of long standing.
    Any member of a congregation who thinks that the House of Laity thinks that they speak for him/her rather than themselves, will believe that their MP votes for the wishes of his voters.

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    1. Churches do elect members for Deanery Synod, and deanery synod acts as a sort of electoral college for sending members to General Synod. Those standing for General Synod have to persuade the rest of us to vote for them, and the ones with the most votes are duly elected. So there is quite a lot of say about that.

      I totally agree with you that bishops should be elected, not appointed, in a transparent system. I am certain that if parishes had a say in who got made a bishop, our present line-up would look rather different!!

      So does your church have alternative oversight?

      Do you fancy being Archbishop???!!! 😉

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  2. What’s all the fuss about Bishops, women or otherwise? Were our Lord to decide to take unto him today (God forbid) all Bishops, Curates, Deacons and Priests, would the ‘Church’ cease to exsist? I put it that the ‘Church’ would continue to meet and worship and pray to our Lord, as did the original church. How many of our parishes are currently without or sharing Vicars? How many are relying on unpaid Ministers, Readers and in many cases Churchwardens, or even parishoners, who are conducing some form of worship, because of a ‘shortage’ of Ordained Clergy? Many of these people are doing God’s work, and despite the fact that the heirarchy will not allow them to bless, absolve and consecrate, they continue to lead worship. I am convinced that, had Jesus Himself been here, He would receive the blessed sacrement from the hands of someone who, despite not having been given a piece of paper specifying his authority to do so, had in all true faith broken the bread and offered it as a sign that one was partaking in the body of Christ, and offered the cup as a sign that Christ’s blood had been shed for me. I still cannot get round the idea that a Priest can say ‘YOUR sins be forgiven’ rather than ‘OUR sins be forgiven’.
    Whenever I go to church (regularly) whoever takes the service, presides over the communion, etc.is not to me a man or a woman, but a Servant of God. I believe that the question we should be asking is not ‘shold we have Women bishops?’, but more importantly, ‘Should we have as many Bishops as we do?’ The Church is like a rose bush, which, if it is to provide good flowers, requires good pruning.
    And do not forget that the first person our lord showed himself after his ressurection to was – you guessed- a woman.

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    1. I have HUGE sympathy with this, Eric! I remember saying something similar some years ago at a retreat for Anglican deacons (being one myself) and they all looked at me and told me I was a closet congregationalist … which was very annoying, because that is not the point!

      I had a lot of reservations about the women priest issue, in the 90s – to my mind, it seemed that the relevant question was not ‘should women be allowed to be priests’ (which ended up as a largely secular argument about equality). The relevant question was ‘what are priests?’ If only we’d tackled that properly at the time, we would not now be in this idiotic and sorry mess.

      And I am so pleased about your last sentence – thank goodness you, at least, have noticed that 😉 I also like to point out to my brothers in other denominations where women are still kept on the sidelines, that God was humble enough to be born from a woman’s body – and therefore, how come they consider a woman so ‘unclean’ that she is unfit to handle the bread and wine??

      It seems arrant nonsense to me … excuse my rantings!

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  3. It is not my place to comment on someone else’s church,faith,belief, the members do it quite well for themselves. I was listening to AB Sentamu this morning; the lawyer in him was speaking. He may have just discovered a niche at his feet that needs an eagle eye and enormous patience; or perhaps that should be, enormous tolerance and patience.

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    1. That interview is the epitome of everything I inveigh against. I am disappointed with a senior journalist like John Humphrys not bothering to even grasp the basics of the issue. It is lazy journalism – like sending someone to report on a football match who doesn’t know the rules of football. This is not about ‘whether the church will have women bishops’. Nor is it ‘against women bishops’. That has already been decided, in favour. He was told this several times by different interviewees, but continued to say ‘the synod has voted against women bishops’.

      It’s about how we continue as a church family together, disagreeing fundamentally, but finding ways to show respect to one another. If we can’t get this right, then shame on us. Difficult, yes, but not impossible.

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      1. The interviewer, who you indicate lacked real knowledge of Church structural management, may have disappointed you; are you saying that AB Sentamu’s handling of the interview also disappointed you? The same lack of knowledge which, you say was and is demonstrated by the media, is likely to be extant in the U.K. Effective communication outside of the Church village appears to be missing.

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      2. Oh yes, because the media don’t bother to inform themselves properly of the issues, and in any case, most people don’t care about the internal ructions of the church! Sentamu was not given the opportunity to make his case, by Humphrys’ trademark interruptions.

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      3. I must have heard a part of the interview where Sentamu’s deliberations were more to the fore.

        I agree that Humphreys behaves like a barrack room lawyer, he also is clever at demolishing fatuous nonsense, however, he does not demarcate his lines. It is not appropriate to use that technique with every discussion. Sadly, it is seen as a model for other interviewers who do it so badly, it becomes just another layer of cringe.

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      4. Oh dear :no: Most of us will just get on with things as normal. I do feel sorry for those who had pinned their hopes on it, who will have to come to terms with it in their own ways, at least in the short term. Could be that the retreat houses will be doing brisker business than normal!

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    1. Why evolutionary? saying the church should be like secular society, is the same as saying that secular society should be like the church. It’s not an argument that makes sense to me, I’m afraid.

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      1. Change is either revolutionary or evolutionary. What I’m saying is the church is full of humans and they seek change. There was a time you would not have had black priests, or women priests or gay priests. The next step is bishops.

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      2. But Pete, we’ve already agreed to have women bishops. We agreed this, two years ago. That really is not the issue.

        The issue is, how do we ‘include’ the groups who cannot in conscience agree with it? That’s the challenge. The possibilities that were put to the vote yesterday, were not considered sufficient by a substantial minority in the house of laity.

        Yes, of course it will happen – the issue is, how it will happen.

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      3. It’s about ‘how’ to include the dissidents. We have to try and get this right. If we believe we are the family of God, then that means working at our disagreements so that we can ALL continue to be part of that family. This principle holds good for other flashpoints for the church also.

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  4. I heard the news report on this yesterday and it ‘catagoricaly’ stated that the Church was against woman bishops. Can’t remember her name but she said that women were (as far as the Church was concerned) only good enough for services, flower arranging, cleaning and the prep of surmons.

    P xx

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    1. Yes, it’s understandable that most women are tearful, angry, even bitter. That is certainly how it feels sometimes. However, looking at the facts, it’s not strictly true in this country as a lot of women are in ‘senior’ church positions these days. Being a bishop is the next step.

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  5. If you listened tonight to your own Archbishop of Canterbury on BBC he was heartbroken at the delay in having women as Bishops. Whatever was agreed in principle in the past will not be implemented until a new vote is taken. Many people were distressed, so your view isn’t quite born out by the response……….. I think it could be years before another vote reverses the decision. If I am wrong please accept my apology in advance. David

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    1. Oh David, I make no pretence that my views reflect the majority of the church! I don’t like being in pressure groups or boxes. To me the truth is important, and that means trying to see something from all sides before making up my mind. The measure passed in the houses of bishops and of clergy, and both the present archbishop and the incoming one both have stated publicly that they are in favour. What is interesting, is, that it is the laity who did not produce the necessary two-thirds majority.

      I have a great deal of sympathy for many of my friends, who are today shocked and distressed and ready to jack it all in.

      But I hold by my principle, that this is about the family of God respecting each other even when we deeply disagree. I am not prepared to ‘exclude’ them simply on the basis that I don’t agree with them. Secular society should understand that – they are always telling us not to be ‘exclusive’. Yet here I am arguing for ‘inclusion’ and nobody seems to understand what I’m saying 😉

      We have to find a way of living together, as argumentative families do, without allowing the pressure of disagreement to split us apart.

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      1. I understand that and I think you are big hearted.

        My problem is with fundamentalists who are naive to an extent that challenges reason……… its like they want to be blind to truth.

        They look at fossils and say God made these as well, already embedded in rocks.
        You cannot argue with people blind to truth and reality. Some will not accept teaching of evolution by natural selection.

        David.

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      2. Oh yes, there is very deep disappointment about it, and much grief and pain, not only amongst the women, but also amongst those who voted for it. But clearly, ‘we’ just had not got the process right, about how to move ahead with women bishops without ‘excluding’ those who can’t go along with it. Maybe the time will lead us all to reflect a bit more and ‘want’ a bit less … I believe we need to hold these things on an open palm, not in a closed fist, and offer it to God, to do something creative amongst us that will show us the way forward.

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