Monday, 10 December 2012

A broad church?

Some people have asked what I think about the vote that took place in General Synod in November regarding the place of women in the Episcopacy in the Church of England. I did not think it would go through and, although I wholeheartedly support Bishops of both genders, I am glad that this particular piece of legislation did not go through as it would have enshrined within it a two-tier system of episcopacy, and I do not think this is right. Had this particular piece of legislation gone through it would have meant that those who do not wish to have a woman as their bishop or a man who has been ordained by a woman as their parish priest, or a man who has been ordained by a bishop who has ordained a woman as priest or bishop – they could ask for someone different. What a mess. How far back in time do you go back to check out someone’s ‘pedigree’ as priest or bishop? And what happens if you do want a woman as your parish priest, and your bishop and diocese is an enclave that makes it virtually impossible to exercise your ministry if you happen not to be a man?

It seems to me that the Church of England is only as broad as those it recognises and invites to bring their gifts and skills into play. Following the vote that took place in November, the place of women in the church is seriously in question. Men and women are different it is true – but this is not simply because of their gender – it is because we are all different. The skills and gifts that I have are different from the woman I sit next to on the tube. The gifts and skills that the man who drives the bus has are different from those of the man who works in the City… sweeping the office or working behind the desk. We are each unique, we are each made in the image of God, we each bear the imprint of Christ.
I do not speak very much about the matter of women in the church a) because I simply get on with what I believe God has called me to do and be, and that the church has affirmed and b) because I don’t feel I have the right to ‘go on about’ being a women in ministry, when all women and men are called to serve.

This is a deeply sad and disappointing moment in time. Many people prayed for the will of God to be done – and someone somewhere must think it came to pass. Maybe this was the right thing so that future legislation could go through without the legalising of the taint associated with merely being of the ‘wrong’ gender. I use the word taint advisedly because it is a word that has been used about me to my face because I am a priest who is female. Imagine that if you will – by my gender, I bring some sort of taint to the office of priest. This is also why I don’t talk about this matter so very much because I find it too distressing and embarrassing to know that there are Christians who worship Sunday by Sunday and day by day who use these types of words and sentiment about one another. What would Jesus say and do? What should we do? As ever, the answer is to pray.

Pray earnestly for charity and for love, pray earnestly for grace and hope. Pray also for the members of General Synod who spoke passionately and earnestly on both sides of the debate, and for those who are seeking to take this matter forward. Pray for the Church of England as it seeks to heal a wound that has scar tissue from previous matters relating to this theme that have never really been healed and that cause impediment of movement for all. Pray also for the women of the church across the world in whatever form of ministry they exercise, lay and ordained, parish priest and bishop, young and old. May women in our churches be cherished and loved and held dear by all. May men of our own age know that they are cherished and loved and held dear by all too. May we all know the love of God calling us to be who we are, in God’s service and for God’s good purpose.

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