I am sure I will not be the only one to feel frustration and disbelief at the news today that the committee responsible for overseeing the legislation on women bishops through Synod is seeking to reverse the decision duly made and voted on in July 08. Those who cannot accept the authority of women bishops have argued that their position should be protected by statute and it seems that they may have their way. The committee, headed by the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester, states that it ,
“ voted to amend the draft to provide for certain functions to be vested in bishops by statute rather than a statutory code of practice.”
In short, the revision committee has voted to change the rules to remove certain powers from female bishops when they face opposition from traditionalists. In such areas specially appointed male bishops would assume these powers – which would be enshrined in law.
Now my dismay and anger at this news is not primarily based on a reluctance to pander to the attitudes of those who are in conscience opposed to the ministry of women. I am quite happy to state unequivocally that I personally believe such objections to be based almost wholly upon deep rooted misogyny and a lack of humility in those opposed to the ministry of women with respect to their own ministry as men and servants of Christ. I also believe the “objections” to women’s ministry to have no real scriptural basis and see them as offensive, morally bankrupt and demeaning to the common humanity of all of us. These are strongly held convictions – but nevertheless I can recognise that I may be unfairly judging those who “cannot in conscience accept women’s ministry.” What really concerns me though is the sheer unworkable nature of a “two tier” church with such potential for division, discord, no-go areas for women and a real curtailing of the scope of women’s ministry. In all sincerity, I hope that WATCH delivers a resounding, “Thanks but no thanks” to these proposals ; at the same time I know how bitter it will be to so many women to see their prospects for ministry and opportunity dwindle and fade.
I also ask what message we give to those outside the Church, the young within the church and women, whether lay or ordained. Forward in Faith members have complained that the matter has been reported as though they were bigots or,
“ as though we just care about what hangs between the legs” ( Rev. Fr. Tomlinson.)
But how can we expect the majority to see it in any other light than a church that is prejudiced, out of touch and, despite a message of love, places little weight on valuing all people as precious and acceptable in God’s eyes.