Sunday, 10 July 2011

Open Synod Group: Bishop Victoria Matthews

I attended a fascinating talk this afternoon by the Rt Revd Victoria Matthews, Bishop of Christchurch, NZ. The talk was hosted by the Open Synod group and of great interest to anyone involved in or supportive of the admission of women to the Episcopate. Bishop Victoria spoke of her experiences in Christchurch, with an initial focus upon the turmoil, physical, emotional and spiritual, caused by the five major earthquakes which have totally reconfigured their lives and the way that people turned to the Church for leadership and the privilege and responsibility that that brought.The remainder of her talk focused upon another event that can cause turmoil, namely the presence of a woman in a position of episcopal leadership! The picture Bishop Victoria painted of the way that it is possible to rise to this challenge - without a raft of legal safeguards - was inspiring.
New Zealand does not have legal safeguards in place for those who remain opposed to the leadership of women. It does not even have a code of practice. Bishop Victoria is an Anglo Catholic, elected to a largely evangelical diocese with a flavour of Sydney evangelism and yet she has worked successfully alongside  conservative evangelicals and Roman Catholic bishops. She spoke with affection of Barry Jones, with whom she worked closely "rebuilding the faith of Canterbury," (dont' ask -I've no idea...) and Peter Jensen. It was reassuring to be given a glimpse of hope that in all three dioceses she has worked in there have been problems and those who are conservative on the issue, yet in every instance she has been able to work with others with respect and mutual support.
Those within the Church of England who complain that the Code of Practice is not adequate and does not offer sufficient provision would have benefitted from attending this talk. I doubt that many of them, sadly, were present. It was a tribute to the belief that grace and not law will offer us a path to walk forward together in a common quest to spread the gospel, not only in only in our words, but in our actions to each other.


  1. Hi Suem
    "Rebuilding the faith of Canterbury" is about an ecumenical fund-raising initiative to assist all denominations in the rebuilding of their broken churches (however the word 'faith' is very important as the idea here is that our future is not simply about buildings, but about our faith and how we give it expression).

    A minor point (if I may be so bold): did +Victoria say "Philip Jensen" (the Dean of Sydney) or "Peter Jensen" (the Archbishop of Sydney)? I do not know if she has ever been in communication with the former but I know she has been in communication with the latter who has take a direct and personal interest in the Diocese and its earthquake troubles.

  2. Thanks, Sue, for your postings about synod. I'm seeing lots of stuff on Twitter but it's hard to make sense of something like synod through bits and pieces flying through the air. As an outsider, I have trouble seeing the bigger picture and your posts are most helpful.

    I'm particularly pleased to read this. I agree with you that it's grace and not law that will make the way forward. So much law presupposes that people will not be generous and gracious. I'd rather presuppose that they will.


  3. Post above is from me! Problems with google!

  4. How very interesting and encouraging, Sue. Thanks for sharing what sounds like a most worthwhile encounter.

  5. Greetings Sue
    Thanks for this info
    I will tweet your post.



  6. Thanks Penelopepiscopalian! Worth noting these are fringe events. The discussion in Synod Chamber was so dull I avoided it (parish fees etc) Thinking Anglicans gives a comprehensive coverage, mine is just a personal perspective - but you may like that.
    Thanks for commenting Perpetua. Sue

  7. Hi Peter,
    It will have been Peter Jensen. I was surprised at the thought that it was Philip Jensen, I was scribbling notes while she talked and my notes just say "Jensen" - my error! I did speak to + Victoria afterwards and she spoke very warmly of you BTW.
    + Victoria was truly inspiring in her talk on women as bishops and it was a pleasure to hear her.