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Support for women bishops ‘is biblical’

28 March 2013


A so-called "clumsy caricature" of the debate over women bishops as "a stand-off between liberal Christians who are prepared to twist scripture . . . and conservative Christians who remain faithful to the plain meaning of the text" is tackled in a new publication edited by the Bishop of Sheffield, the Rt Revd Steven Croft, and Dr Paula Gooder, a lecturer in biblical studies.

The book, Women and Men in Scripture, published this week by Canterbury Press, is written by Bishop Croft, Dr Gooder, and eight others: the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell; the Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Revd Dr Jo Bailey Wells; the Dean of York, the Very Revd Vivienne Faull; the Archdeacon of Portsdown, the Revd Dr Joanne Grenfell; the Revd Dr Emma Ineson, tutor at Trinity College, Bristol; the Vicar of St Thomas's, Blackpool, the Revd Dr Rosalyn Murphy; and the Dean of Studies at St John's College, Nottingham, the Revd Dr Ian Paul.

In an introduction to the book, the editors write that the debate about women bishops in the General Synod last November "revealed a need for resources to help churches and congregations to look again at the question of women and men in the scriptures.

"Many of those who opposed the Measure did so from a conviction that it is more 'biblical' to argue that women should not become bishops." The authors argue that this view is "simply one way of interpreting the scriptures, and gives priority to just a small number of contested passages".

The six chapters of the book each focus on a biblical passage, with an exposition, questions for discussion, suggestions for application and a closing prayer. The editors warn that, for some readers, the material may be "disturbing as well as liberating". Also included is a history of the "slow and contested" recognition of the ministry of women in the Church of England.

On Tuesday, Bishop Croft said that he had been "frustrated" during the November debate that "we never quite got into the theological debate." A subsequent meeting with women in the diocese had revealed "a desire for better resources . . . to enable parishes to talk about these issues really well and creatively.

"I hope people will hear again that what the Bible says about gender is fundamentally very good news for everyone: a profound message of equality and of women and men being made in God's image together."

A proportion of the royalties from sales of the book will be given to Christian Aid for its work among women in the developing world.

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