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