Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Women Bishops...

I returned to the Church twenty years ago, after what I describe as my Damascus Road conversion. I was pretty arrogant back in those days (some say that I still am) but I knew that the only way to avoid making a mess of my life again was to submit to the teaching authority of Holy Mother Church. She had, after all, survived 2000 years of human mismanagement, and Jesus had guaranteed that the Holy Spirit would preserve her. It was a no-brainer.

About a year or so after my reversion, the women priests thing kicked off in the Church of England. I didn't understand all the theological arguments - I still don't - but the Catholic Church stated clearly that you couldn't have women priests, because she didn't have the authority to do what Christ himself had not done. The lack of authority was the bottom line. That was enough for me.

The Church of England decided to go ahead and ordain women, but then, to put it bluntly, they dropped the idea of authority back when they split with Rome over the matter of a certain King's divorce. At the time it was argued that it was alright to ordain women as priests but they wouldn't ever go ahead and be ordained as bishops.

This struck me at the time as a rather disingenuous statement. Even to my untutored ears, it didn't sound right. After all, if you are going to dispense with the arguments against having women priests, then there are no arguments remaining against having women bishops. If there are no theological reasons to prevent women being ordained as bishops, then it boils down to a matter of equality. You cannot say women can not be bishops just because they are women when you wouldn't accept that argument about women becoming priests in the first place.

Today the General Synod voted very narrowly against women bishops. I think the Church of England is in trouble here. Anyone care to take bets on how long before we have the first court case under equal opportunities legislation?

4 comments:

Katie said...


May I add another consideration? I think there was a tacit understanding between Welby and Co. and our political lords and masters. Yes to women Bishops and we won't force gay marriage on the Established Church. This vote may well weaken the case against gay marriage: "The Church (as in C of E)has no moral standing to say . . .". Women bishops would have been a good thing: the C of E would have finally said to itself openly that it is a Protestant community with a Congregationalist ecclesiology. No search for truth, conversion to the truth, or the transmission of truth; just the fluctuating opinion of the majority.

Catholic Christian said...

They are already talking about it. MPs have stated that they hope to fight it in Parliament, whilst one MP whose name escapes me said it could be a legal issue over equality. They'll come for the Catholic Church next, I reckon!

Fr Levi said...

Hi MF,
there is an exemption for all faiths in the equalities legislation covering this, so no cases on the horizon ... however, the MPs throwing a nutty in the house during the week talked about removing the exemption ... the only problem is that they would have to remove it for all faiths, not just the CofE ...

Mac McLernon said...

...hence my comment!
;-)

But thanks for the details, Father!

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