Photo credits

The Embalse de Riano in northern Spain. The picture was taken by .... me!

Wednesday, November 21

Women Bishops – the failure of women’s leadership

The general synod of the Church of England voted by the narrowest of margins not to allow Women Bishops yesterday.

And the women have only themselves to blame.
Firstly I do support the ordination of women to the role of bishop – see my reasoning in italics at the bottom of this post.
But here is where the women lost their vote:
  1. Strategy. They did not make adequate concessions to conservatives. I accept their arguments about being second class, etc. But had they made the concessions, they would have won the vote. Then in ten years’ time when everybody is used to the idea of women bishops and its working well, either the concessions will have become utterly redundant, or they can be renegotiated and almost certainly win.
  2. Greed for power and status. The reason they did not give the concessions was about territorial power. And about being second class. Since when has the Kingdom of God been about power and status? God does not endorse these lusts.
  3. Personality. Listening to interviews on Radio 4, it was quite clear that the woman opposing women Bishops was a nicer person – more respectful, more courteous, more patient, more in control of her emotions. Meanwhile the woman supporting ordination was aggressive and generally not a nice person. If I had to choose a Bishop, I would appoint the one who is most Christ-like, which was definitely not the one who wanted to be a bishop.
  4. Theology. Most of the argument seems to have been not about Scriptural guidance but about how we look in the eyes of the world. Since when has looking good been the basis for Godliness? There’s been arguemts about moving with the times. Since when has Godliness been about modernity? Its been about equality – not simply because that is in itself right but because that is the standard of the wider society. Since when has conforming to society been a sign of Godliness? NEVER! We are the ecclesia – the ones called out to be different.
  5. Method. The Kingdom of God is not guided by staging political demonstrations and waving placards so that the one who shouts the loudest wins!
So the women leading this debate on women’s leadership have let the side down, failing in their leadership and failing to achieve female leadership. All for the sake of impatience and ungodly greed for power.

I want women in leadership.  Just not these ones!
I don’t accuse them as individuals – I don’t know them and no doubt they are very nice on a personal level. I am speaking collectively.
My Reasoning for Women Bishops:

For me the debate centres on the interpretation of Paul when he says “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man”. The question is – was this a local and/or temporal injunction, or one for the whole church in the whole earth in the whole of time? I have very little time for those who dismiss awkward scriptures on cultural grounds. My faith is founded on the Scripture which I believe to be God’s eternal Word. So I look within the Scripture for an answer, bearing in mind that I am unwittingly prone to seeing it through my cultural lens, and also bearing in mind equally that my Evangelical heritage has its own – old- cultural lens. So what else do we find in Scripture? “In Christ there is neither male nor female…” True, but I have generally considered this to be in regards to eligibility for salvation rather than gender roles. For me it comes down to “Junia … considered outstanding among the apostles.”. The Catholic Church, in the Vulgate Latin Bible, changed her name to a masculine form, but this name did not exist in masculine form, so it is a bit obvious, really. Then, could it be construed that she was just a member of the congregation that was considered by the group of male apostles to be outstanding? At New Wine I asked a teacher of theology from Durham University if this was a possible translation, and he replied “only with some very convoluted grammar!” So I believe that in Romans Paul endorsed a woman as an apostle, no doubt with apostolic authority, and it seems silly to suggest she was an apostle only to women. I believe this demonstrates that the above injunction was a local or temporary thing, and this releases me to endorse (enthusiastically) the idea of women bishops.

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