Obdormio.com Unwasted Hours

26 November, 2012

Priesthood of Almost All Believers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

Last week, the General Synod of the Church of England failed to pass legislation that would have allowed women bishops.

You can read all about it in various news articles one the web, like this one, as well as several reports on the fallout. MPs and bishops alike calling for the Church of England to lose its exception to equality legislation, calls for Parliament to overrule the Church and throw the bishops out of the House of Lords, and bitter, bitter disappointment from those supporting the legislation that failed to pass.

You can understand their frustration. The vote failed by the tiniest margin. It needed two-thirds majority in each of the three Houses of the Synod. It passed easily in the House of Bishops, and by a good margin in the House of Clergy, but was six votes short in the House of Laity. In that last House, 132 voted for and 74 voted against, and so the against vote won.

Even though I do sympathise with the reasons for such a system – the Church should be mindful of significant minority views within itself, and should change slowly, not just at the whim of society – I am not at all sure the result actually reflected the views of the Church as a whole. I have seen several articles say that outside the Synod, the vast majority of the Church supports women bishops, and that a few hardline conservatives managed to get themselves elected and scoop the vote. On the other hand, they did manage to get themselves elected, so it’s hard to object to that after the fact.

I myself rooted for the legislation to pass. My own church, with which the Church of England is in full communion through the Porvoo agreement, has had women bishops since 1993. At present, four of the twelve bishops in the Church of Norway are women, among them the praeses. Other Anglican churches have also had women bishops for a while, and the Church of England itself has had women priests for 20 years, but now it failed to move further.

From what I understand, the Porvoo agreement states that members of one church is to be considered as if they were members of the other, and those ordained in one, are then fit for service in the other. I’m not sure what would happen if one of our women bishops wanted to move to England. It’s not something that’s likely to come up, really, but ordination to bishop isn’t really a temporary thing that disappears when you retire. I would imagine that the agreement had specific rules for bishops, since they’re their own thing any way, and that the exchange of ordained ministers referred mainly to priests.

I’m not going to talk much more about this – people far smarter than I have already said most of it¬†anyway, I think. Suffice it to say, I’m disappointed. I feel for those who have laboured for years to make this legislation happen. I hope it won’t really be seven years before it can be attempted again, and that the Church can move forwards in the way that the majority of its members actually want it to soon. It’s a dangerous thing, to claim that someone is on the right or wrong side of history, but I cannot help but believe that this was the wrong decision for a Church for which I have great affection and affinity. Ultimately, though, I guess I’ll have to take the difficult advise of a vicar friend of mine, and trust God.

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