Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Woman, you be that Bishop! (Church of England, Please Do Not Read This)

The Church of England synod in London have voted against the ordination of women as bishops. Anglicanism has come under fire today, after a two-thirds majority within the three houses of the General Synod did not eventuate. Ironically, the bishops voted 44 in favour of female Bishops (89.8 %), and only three against. The male bishops voted FOR the change. The clergy, they voted 148 in favour of female Bishops and 45 against (76.7 %). What caused the Church of England to fail to allow ordained women Bishops was in fact the 'laity' (that is, the people allowed to vote from within the church congregation). They voted 132 in favour of female Bishops, but 74 were against which failed to reach the required two-thirds agreement (64.1%).
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The Church of England dates back to its separation from the Roman Catholic Church during the time of King Henry VIII in the early 16th Century. King Henry VIII resisted coming under papal authority of his day, and through the English Reformation, became the supreme head of the Church of England in 1534. Since those times, men have been appointed as bishops and priests and not women.
In fact it has only been recent decades in which the Church of England in various countries have began voting to allow women to be priests. It seems some parts of the Church of England still have a way to go before they recognise women in leadership. Complentarianism is still in vogue.
I have been asked on different occasions, 'What's your thoughts on females in ministry'? Call me simplisitc, but personally, I don't even think there is an argument to be had today. Women and men. Men and women. Either can be leaders and either can be in ministry. To me, involvement in ministry and/or leadership relates more to spiritual gifts and skill sets, than the sex of the person in question. I know full well that some Christian traditions still hold very passionately to only men being allowed in leadership positions. I rarely come across Christian traditions though that fail to recognise women's involvement in ministry.

So what is the big deal with women being appointed into positions of leadership? In the New Testament we know that the twelve disciples were male. Our assumption is that the Jewish leaders in the Synagogues were all male, and when and if they converted to Christianity, they would have kept their strong views on men in leadership. Though, for me, the message of Christ, and the freedom that is found in him, sought to challenge the Pharisaical views of his day. I would argue that if Jesus was here on earth today, he would not have an issue with women in leadership. This is an egalitarian view. While he did not challange every social issue of his day, that is noted, he was nonetheless very revolutionary in his approach to being a Rabbi in the first century.

I would like to comment and say, while women in leadership and eldership can be an issue in some Christian circles and a debate that flairs up occassionally, the fact is, women in ANY form of leadership in the world today find themselves in a minority (CEO and senior management roles mostly). More must be done to seek after equality (especially when men are chosen over women when the women clearly has the greater skill set, and is the better Godly choice).

To support my argument from a biblical perspective I quote Galatians 3:28 that says, 'There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.' This was not a sudden burst of compassion for the Apostle Paul, but rather a shifting mindset in his previously strongly held Jewish faith. What a paradigm shift over time for the Apostle Paul! With all respect, it would be helpful if there were more people in the Church of England, that shifted their mindset on their view of women serving as Bishops.
For more on women in leadership, Bishop of Durnham, N.T. Wright pens the article, 'Women's Service in the Church' - Click here.  He unpacks 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 which is a prickly passage on women in ministry. I will not seek to delve into that passage here, but by all means, check that one out.

From being deeply involved in The Salvation Army, I have witnessed God use women significantly in ministry and leadership, and thank God for their contribution to the growing of the Kingdom of God. In fact, our current worldwide leader, the General, is a woman.

Church of England, please stop the nonsense. Woman, you be that Bishop!

See also:

--> ABC News report on Women Bishops.

--> Top 10 Reasons Why People Don't Go to Church


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