Leader: Looking forward to the women-bishops vote
Posted: 24 May 2012 @ 00:00
THIS is the way that it will play in the July Synod. Each side in the women-bishops debate will rehearse its arguments, explain its hurt, and express, once again, its bewilderment that something so obviously right as its position is not held universally. Having shared its particular pain, each side will hope keenly that it has mustered enough votes, one to push the Measure through, the other to stop it in its tracks. The result of the voting will be announced after a reminder from the chair that the custom of the Synod is to receive such news in respectful silence; but there will be congratulations outside the chamber among one set of campaigners, and forlorn frustration felt by the other set.
This is the way decisions are made in the C of E, and we have to remind ourselves that it is preferable to other, less open systems of government. But then we recall the reactions to the House of Bishops’ amendments to the final draft Measure. Before seeing the actual wording, each camp released, none the less, statements of dismay and frustration: WATCH, that the Bishops had chosen to intervene at all; the Catholic Group and Reform that they had not intervened enough.
There is another way in which all this could be played, and that is for people to accept the inevitable. There will be women bishops, and these will help to shape the C of E in the years to come; and there will continue to be traditionalist parishes and clergy for the foreseeable future, and these, given the right opportunities, will work amicably within a Church in which men and women share leadership. Acceptance is not agreement; it is not collusion; nor does it “enshrine” anything. It is a simple acknowledgement that the Church has, will, and must include people with differing views, often on fundamental issues. There are, after all, plenty of models that churchpeople might copy: City fans and United fans in Manchester accept each other’s existence, for example, with only the occasional scuffle. Given the frequent NT injuctions to love the brethren (interpreted inclusively), acceptance is the bare minimum of what ought to be achieved.
Concerning the Bishops’ amendments, we question whether making the obvious distinction between “permission” to ordain and the “power” to do so will reassure traditionalists. Also, the phrase about ensuring that the exercise of ministry of a priest or bishop is “consistent” with the views of the PCC sounds faintly alarming; but this is restricted to views on women’s ordination. It is not a general test of faith; nor is anything here particularly surprising or novel. Altogether, the authority of the diocesan bishop is untouched, but traditionalists are given a little more reassurance. These amendments should be welcomed as a sign that the House of Bishops wishes to respect the views of both sides.