Women bishops and Anglican fudge
For some Anglicans, the thought of a woman bishop is almost as offensive as the prospect of a female Dr Who. For others, it’s a perfectly logical consequence of ordaining women as priests. There’s also a third group – because this is the Church of England – who don’t give damn either way. Together these disparate groups constitute a withering limb of Christ’s Body on earth.
There is a measure on women bishops coming before the General Synod next week. Lambeth Palace has made its position quite clear, urging Synod to vote 'yes' - under the banner of the 'Enough Waiting' campaign.
In the interests of balance and in good old via media fashion, His Grace would like to draw to the attention of his cyber flock the campaign being run by the Church Society – under the banner of ‘Together 4ward’ (snazzy, huh..?) – which urges Synod to vote 'no'.
But before you leap to judgment and accuse His Grace of unjust discrimination, outrageous prejudice, misogyny or some phobia or other, please listen very carefully to this plea. It is not at all an argument against women bishops or for the maintenance of the status quo, but an objection against the process by which the Church of England is conducting itself in this debate and to the bad legislation which is likely to result. The Church Society says on its website: “We are convinced from the Bible that female bishops are not biblical, but for the sake of church unity will compromise to allow them.”
The reality is that the proposed legislation sustains discrimination. Wherever there is a female bishop, there must be provision for a stand-in male bishop which ‘respects’ the reasons a parish may have for requesting one. There’s an awful lot of nebulous baggage in this word ‘respects’, not least 5000 years of theology, 2000 years of church history and 500 years of Anglican tradition.
Whether you are for or against women bishops, the obligation to ‘respect’ is not the solution: you might as well exhort each side simply to love one another and live in peace. Since they won’t hear that from Jesus Himself, they’re not likely to give much weight to a man-made statutory requirement to ‘respect’.
His Grace is all for viae mediae, but not those which are likely to lead to a much greater hurdle and tumultuous division at some point in the future over the mechanics of pastoral provision. How to express diversity within unity is worth getting right: the many-sidedness of truth and the plethora of degrees of rightness are worth long and prayerful meditation and very patient waiting.