Tuesday 13 July 2010

Three Cheers for General Synod!

They’ve done it! The General Synod of the Church of England has agreed to the future appointment of women bishops and without the compromise solution introduced by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, that traditionalist opponents be permitted to come under the jurisdiction of a male bishop.

A part of me feels some sympathy for those who would have preferred the compromise. If genuine theological convictions lead one to the view that women should not serve as bishops (and, presumably, not as priests either), is this not a belief that should be accommodated in a ‘broad church’? Yet I can’t help thinking that basic prejudice is also too easily justified as a theological conviction. In other words, we read the Bible through the lens of prejudice without allowing it to speak for itself. I may be doing this too, but Paul’s conviction expressed in Galatians 3:28 seems right: ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ This seems to speak to the Church Universal (as opposed to local church situations, where Paul may give local applications on the role of women in the church for his time) and gives the universal principle of equality. Although change takes time, I think that the archbishops’ compromise solution would have undermined the position of those women who will become bishops and perpetuate the injustice of inequality in the Church.

In the end, I suspect the outflow of traditionalists who leave the Church of England will be less than expected, and the Church will be stronger as women rise through the ranks. And as a Baptist, I’m almost a little envious that a representative body can take a decision that is binding on the whole Church!


  1. If only it was decided...
    The debate now goes back to the Dioceses and if they agree to it, it goes back to Synod where it need as 2/3 majority in each house.
    The CofE is very slooooow!

  2. How long will that take? And surely they must agree now! And it's not only the CofE that's slow. In theory, women have been accepted in the Baptist churches of GB as ministers (and regional ministers - our closest equivalent to Bishop) for a century or so. In practice, many churches would not consider having a woman as minister. In fact, I'm sure there's a much higher proportion of women who are clergy in the CofE than in the Baptist churches!