Oh dear, Church of England, what have you done?
Yesterday’s news that the good ol’ C of E were considering taking the mess they have got themselves into over the appointment of women as Bishops to arbitration cannot be good news. Not in the short term.
That the CofE cannot sort out its internal wrangling sounds like nothing short of an admission of defeat. Like most disputes there will be winners and losers. The only winners will be the lawyers.
I’ll state my position now. I am not in favour of women bishops.
What I am in favour of is bishops, whic can be of either gender. I dislike the phrase ‘women bishops.’ as it makes it sound like something different. In the same way that talking about women priests make them sound like something different to priests, so women bishops as a term makes it sound like something different, and inferior, to bishop. I could be that I’m being over picky, but I have always been a terrible pedant.
Let women be bishops, full bishops, equal in their role to any man who holds that office in the church.
Now I’ll state the C of E position: They are in favour of women becoming bishops too.
The July 2012 Synod vote went as follows:
House of Bishops, 44 in favour, 3 against , 2 abstentions.
House of Clergy, 148 in favour, 45 against, no abstentions.
Hose of laity,132 in favour, 74 against, no abstentions.
There is a very clear majority in favour. But the vote was not about whether women could become bishops, that has already been decided, they can. The vote was on how those who would be uncomfortable having a woman as their bishop could be accommodated within the Church of England.
The sticking point is that a simple majority is not enough. Nor is a vast majority. There needs to be a two thirds majority in each of the three houses of General Synod, so although there was a clear two thirds majority overall, the majority in the house of Laity was not enough. A two thirds majority in all the houses is required.
To comlicate things further, those that voted against were not all the traditionalists that you would suppose if you read the BBC News website. There are three groups which voted against; traditionalists, conservative evangelicals, who are opposed, and a group who are in favour of women becoming bishops, but in the interest of unity vote in favour of the minority.
My beleif here, and I could be wrong, but I don’t think so, is that the majority of those who are opposed will be accommodated if the right compromise can be found. The number who will leave the Cof E over this will be very small. However those who will leave if the C of E continues in it’s delaying could be larger. We must do all we can to accommodate those who can be accommodated. For the small minority who will not accept ant compromise we have to wave a sad goodbye. It’s been good being part of a church with you, God bless you wherever it is that God now leads you.
It is sad that the Church of England thinks that arbitration is the only way forward, but it seems to be that that’s the way the C of E works, tottering from one crisis to the next, and all estimates of the death of this church have so far been wrong. It is the nature of a broad church to have factions who disagree, but this is not a weakness, but a strength. may we continue to disagree, and continue to move forward with God, slowly.
This is the Anglican way.