Women Bishops

Last week we saw General Synod of the Church of England lose all credibility when it voted to reject women bishops, and with this vote, the Church of England lost all credibility.

Last week I was at a concert of the Wimbledon Music Festival. The buzz around me was not of the music, but of the decision to reject women bishops.

A compromise put forward had been flying bishops who cater for the needs of those who cannot accept women bishops. We do not have white bishops to cater for the needs of racists, so why the offer of male bishops to cater for bigots?

Talking to a friend earlier this week at Eden People at The Keystone, a friend who attends a church that leans very strongly towards the Catholic Church, she said there was no support for the decision taken. She added the problem was, people who enjoyed sitting on committees, felt important being on General Synod, and yet were seen in church maybe once a year, and so were not carrying forward the views of the church that one assumes they were there to represent.

Should we be surprised. General Synod has been a laughing stock for years, divorced from reality, debating issue like sexuality and women bishops, when the rest of the world moved on years ago.

Why are real issues not being discussed: poverty, Middle East, drone warfare?

The Church of England has long ago lost its way on moral leadership. Occupy outside St Paul’s last year, showed more moral leadership than that shown by Church of England. Maybe that is why so many clergy felt at home there and why many are now openly saying they feel ashamed to be part of the Church of England.

What of women priests? A clear message has been sent to them that they are in some way inferior priests in the eyes of the Church of England. The bigots probably want to see them relegated to their proper place: cleaning brasses, arranging flowers, serving tea and cakes.

A few weeks ago I was talking to a woman clergy member of the General Synod. I said then it had become a joke. She disagreed. I gave as an example a commission of inquiry into sexuality. It comprises entirely of senior bishops. You could not make it up if you tried. This is not a commission of inquiry, it is a private conversation. It lacks credibility before it even starts. She could not see anything wrong! That she could see nothing wrong is illustrative of all that is wrong with General Synod.

There is not even a base in Scripture for the position taken by the bigots (whose position places them as akin to the Taliban). Man and woman were created equal in the image of God. Jesus had female disciples. St Paul (usually depicted as very anti-woman) had a woman as a senior emissary. In the early church there were women bishops.

They would probably freak out if you told them Jesus was a Jew, leader of a small, obscure Jewish sect.

Ignorance is bliss.

Early Scripture was never intended to be written down, to write it down would be to set in stone, to fossilize. Later prophets adapted and built on what went before. Scripture was seen as something living, lessons to be drawn on how life was to be lived, if not abandoned.

I wonder how many of the bigots and fundamentalists have a crib and a manager in their church, a Christmas tree with an angel on top, celebrate Christmas on Christmas Day. If they care to look, they will not find any of these customs in early scripture.

Christmas was not on Christmas day, like Easter, it is a Pagan Festival that pre-dates Christianity. The Bible is silent on when Jesus was born. One reason for this is that in the early church it would have been seen as a pagan custom to mark a birthday. The one thing we do know is that it was not Christmas Day. From the little evidence we have, shepherds tending their flocks at night, it would have been sometime in the spring.

What we think of as the traditional Nativity scene, draws upon but is not of the Gospels, was invented by St Francis of Assisi in 1223, when he created a tableau in a cave of Jesus in a manger, animals looking on. In the Old Testament we can find prophecy of this scene.

The Christmas tree with lights and decorations is a Victorian import from Germany. Though in Germany much earlier origins.

The head of the Church of England is the Monarch, Queen Elisabeth II, at the bottom women priests, but we cannot have in the middle women bishops.

The Church of England has to decide, is it part of society or apart from society. If it is part of society it has to comply with the rules of society. A Member of Parliament who speaks on behalf of the Church of England called it a sect. The Archbishop of Canterbury said it lacked credibility.

If the Church of England is part of society, then as the rest of society it has to comply with equality legislation and the legislation should be changed to include not exempt the Church of England.

The form of General Synod is laid down in Statute can be changed.

Those churches that sent bigots and fundamentalists to General Synod should look very carefully at who they send.

It has always been accepted if you are part of the Legislature, then you comply with what comes out of the Legislature. Until the Church of England has women bishops, they should not be entitled to have bishops sit in the House of Lords.

Please sign the petition:

The vote in the General Synod did not reflect the views of either congregations or churches at grass roots. The Diocesan Synods should pass a vote of no confidence in General Synod and call for its dissolution.

Please support this draft resolution:

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8 Responses to “Women Bishops”

  1. Phil Groom Says:

    Helpful roundup of petitions at Thinking Anglicans … er, yes: some of us can think 😉
    Women Bishops: online petitions
    … getting on for 20,000 signatures across the four petitions.

  2. keithpp Says:

    Excellent News, Bristol Diocesan Synod has passed a vote of No Confidence in General Synod of Church of England. Let us hope the first of many.


  3. Jane Chelliah Says:

    I quite agree with you about how Occupy showed up the church’s shortcomings. It dismayed me. We now have lost two opportunities to demonstrate Christian leadership.

  4. keithpp Says:

    Exactly, Giles Fraser, then Canon-Chancellor at St Paul’s, was the only one to show any leadership in the Church. He then resigned.

    But to be fair, there was a surprising number of clergy involved at St Paul’s in-the-Camp, not just CofE, and not just Christians either, there were people of all faith and no faith.

    Not the impression one got in the corporate controlled and owned mass media.

    The General Synod, for an outsider looking in, has been a sick joke for years. But it is not only General Synod, many churches too. They are not active in their communities, railing against the wrongs of society, trying to right those wrongs. A point Rob Bell makes in Love Wins.

  5. shrewsburysalmon Says:

    I do feel that you expose one of the biggest shortcomings of the debate in your use of the word Bigots to describe those you do not know purely because they have the temerity to disagree with you. Many reasons have emerged why those who did, vote against this measure, and the chances of the church moving forwards together will be enhanced by people like yourself keeping a check on your language and reflecting before hurling insults…. a little more Christlike might help… and as the mud-flinging ends proper debate might yet break out!

  6. keithpp Says:

    I have no problem describing bigots and fundamentalists for what they are. That is not to hurl insults. For far too long their activities have been tolerated. And I am pleased that at long last people are prepared to speak out against the bigots and fundamentalists. They cause huge amounts of damage.

    People are quick to criticise Muslims for not dealing with their bigots and fundamentalists. That criticism would carry far more weight if the Church put its own house in order.

    But I agree, that would not necessarily apply to the entire minority who wish to see women reduced to second class citizens. Some are probably simply misguided.

    We should not forget that this is the Church that burnt heretics and women at the stake, supported slavery, and used Scripture to do so.

    There are Baptist churches in the Deep South of the USA who banned Blacks from their churches, and took great pride in doing so.

    We still have fundamentalists who wish to consign those who do not believe what they do to eternal damnation in Hell. They of course always number themselves among the select few who will be saved.

    As with structured knowledge, we can also have structured ignorance.

    You can if you wish, carry on debating. Others regard the debate long over, and now wish to see reform.

  7. keithpp Says:

    The Church of England and Women Bishops: Is General Synod fit for purpose?

    Dear Bishops, Synod is broken: have you got the message yet?

    Women Bishops: Over 13,000 petition signatures call for action whilst Synod dithers

  8. keithpp Says:

    Women Bishops: Fundamentalists and bigots trying to hijack Church of England.


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