Thinking Anglicans

Reform responds to plans for women bishops

Reform have today issued their response to the bishops’ proposals in GS 1886 under the heading “Reform says Women Bishop Proposals may bar many evangelicals from parish ministry”. Here it is in full.

Reform says Women Bishop Proposals may bar many evangelicals from parish ministry

New proposals for introducing women bishops run counter to the Church’s desire to see those on both sides of the debate flourish in the Church of England, according to Reform, the evangelical Anglican campaigning network.

Speaking after a meeting of the Reform trustees, chairman Prebendary Rod Thomas said today (5th June) that the paper which will be considered by next month’s General Synod, contained some very encouraging sentiments, but these were not reflected in the substance of the proposals.

Preb. Rod Thomas welcomed the vision articulated in the paper for mutual flourishing; the re-iteration of the Lambeth1998 statement that both those in favour of women bishops and those who had theological objections to their introduction were loyal Anglicans; and the recognition that it would be wrong to make such meagre provision for opponents that they would see themselves as being treated on sufferance. He said that Reform members would also be likely to welcome the proposal that provision for opponents should be consistent across all dioceses and that there should be a clear process for dispute resolution.

However, by presenting a motion to next month’s General Synod that committed the future legislative process to the least generous of the options outlined in the paper, the legitimate concerns of many evangelicals were likely to be overlooked. In particular, the proposal for unqualified changes in both legislation and canon would leave many evangelicals in an impossible situation. Clergy who believe the Bible teaches male headship would be unable to take vows of canonical obedience to female bishops and this would effectively prevent them from undertaking much parish ministry.

Other concerns identified by Reform were:

  • The requirement for General Synod to vote on a way forward without having sight of the proposed provisions for those who were opposed on theological grounds to the Episcopal oversight of women;
  • The insecurity of the proposed methods for making provision (ie either an Act of Synod or a declaration by the House of Bishops) which can be changed at any stage in the future by a simple majority vote of the General Synod or House of Bishops; and
  • The proposed removal of the current legislative provisions by which parishes can request the appointment of male priests. This could leave them vulnerable to legal challenge under Equality legislation in the future.

Prebendary Rod Thomas, who took part in the facilitated discussions with the House of Bishops Working Group earlier this year, said that the Church’s synodical process left little room for substantive changes to the proposals. The majority, who favour the introduction of women bishops, are likely to vote the proposals through by simple majority until the time comes for a vote on final approval. Only then, when the majority required in each House of Synod is 2/3, will the views of the minority really count. ‘I have to hope that Synod agrees to amend the motion before it in July’, Preb Thomas said. ‘Failure to do so will make our efforts to find an agreed way forward very much more difficult to achieve.’

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Jeremy Pemberton
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Jeremy Pemberton

Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind. Serves them right. No sympathy.

robert ian williams
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robert ian williams

Jeremy, I remember you as a conservative evangelical..where is your compassion and understanding?

Jeremy Pemberton
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Jeremy Pemberton

All used up, Robert. I don’t care how people dress it up, and the fancy theological justifications they give it, sexism (and homophobia too for that matter) are just plain wrong. Until the church repents and behaves differently in these matters she has no moral authority.
And I was never a conevo.

Cynthia
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Cynthia

Somehow I would think that a belief in something as primitive as male headship would disqualify a person from leadership, period. Seriously. The fruits of “male headship” in action can be seen in the highly patriarchal cultures in Africa. Anyone think that’s a success? Clearly, that is one concept that has driven loads of people out of the church. How many educated women, and their families, would put up with it, subjecting their kids to it. Really! I would think that evangelical parishes would be assigned evangelical oriented priests. In TEC, parishes “call” their own rector, which helps them at… Read more »

Jeremy
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Jeremy

“where is your compassion and understanding?”

Love the sinner. Hate the sin.

Laurence
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Laurence

I’m sure Jeremy remembers you as a conservatie evangelcial too,robert – so what !

I too have no sympathy for REFORM – (and I remember when I was a conservative evangelical in my teens).

They are a spent force, lacking credibility.

They represent a shrinking minority.

Benedict
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Benedict

The invective on this thread is not at all helpful. Conservative evangelicals, many of whom are women, clearly believe that their position is biblically represented. In my own view, the complementarity of the sexes is largely forgotten in this debate. We are indeed equal but not the same. This is why the current discussion on gay marriage, too, is so polarised. We are heading towards a society in which there will be no distinctiveness whatsoever. To borrow a phrase from a well known musical, where “anything goes”. Jesus id not advocate that!

Philip Hobday
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Philip Hobday

Aren’t Reform, Forward in Faith etc. just stating the obvious? Whatever you think about these organisations and their views, it is set out clearly by the House of Bishops that the ‘option one’ they wish to pursue will remove all existing provision in statute (and so all legally binding and enforcable provision) for those who feel unable to receive the ministry of women priests and bishops. The effect of this (again, whether you think it desirable or not) would be that parishes would not be able to be legally sure that they would be served only by male priests and… Read more »

robert ian williams
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robert ian williams

So if they are a spent force..why are their churches thriving and their vocations doing well?

“O what hath bewitched thee” jeremy?

badman
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badman

@Philip Hobday, the thinking is probably as follows. November 2012 proved that nothing which is acceptable to the majority is going to be acceptable to the leadership of Reform or Forward in Faith. In the Synod debate a number of no voters said that they were hoping for more generous provision before voting yes. Since more generous provision is actually not possible, given that the majority offered the most they felt able to (and some have since said they think they actually offered too much), those who thought that holding out would mean getting more have to understand that is… Read more »

Jeremy Pemberton
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Jeremy Pemberton

Benedict “We are heading towards a society in which there will be no distinctiveness whatsoever.” What evidence do you have for this? The common category error here is to confuse equality with sameness. They are not the same. The distinctive differences of men and women will be preserved in their heterosexual relationships, and a fortiori in their marriages. The extension of marriage to same sex couples will not obliterate this, nor obscure it, nor do anything to it at all. What equality will do is extend marriage to same-sex couples – whose differences are just as real, despite the sameness… Read more »

Cynthia
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Cynthia

“In my own view, the complementarity of the sexes is largely forgotten in this debate.” Benedict, the problem with the theory about the complementary nature of the sexes is that it is out of sync with reality. In practice, it forces women into a box that God in her diverse creation did not intend all of us to occupy. That means it is oppressive to the majority of us who have been created and called to do more than cook your meals and iron your shirts. For the women with the economic means and desire to stay home and do… Read more »

Fern
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Fern

That’s an interesting question asked by Robert Ian Williams (of conservative evangelicals) “So if they are a spent force..why are their churches thriving and their vocations doing well?” It’s certainly true that ConEvo churches attract large numbers of affluent people. The churches themselves would put it down to their being ‘bible believing’ and ‘bible teaching’ (as though other parts of the Church work from the Hindu scriptures) etc but I suspect the truth is less flattering. As long as folk are sexually orthodox, i.e. straight, ideally married or, if not, very obviously celibate, then the ConEvo gospel offers no challenges… Read more »

Benedict
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Benedict

Cynthia, can I, for example, bear a child? No. Can you, as a woman, impregnate someone else? No. I say it again, equal but different.

Simon Morden
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Simon Morden

“We are heading towards a society in which there will be no distinctiveness whatsoever.”

In my experience, the differences between people of the same gender are just as great as the differences between people of different genders. Distinctiveness is suppressed by prescriptive gender roles, rather than encouraged and celebrated.

Chris H.
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Chris H.

“Judge not….etc.” Are all members of the CoE poor? No rich people in special pews? No reason for, hmm ..Occupy? Or a priest that wears Prada? TEC has one of the highest percentages of rich members in America. As for norms, TEC doesn’t want them, they’re “exclusionary”. I suppose since any person in Britain can claim to be Anglican, norms are hard to enforce these days. There was a Hindu/Anglican priest,no? And in TEC, Pagan, Buddhist, and Muslim priests teaching from their books, not the BCP. TEC is not poor and loves money/land. Or why all the lawsuits? One parish… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Benedict asks: ‘Cynthia, can I, for example, bear a child? No. Can you, as a woman, impregnate someone else? No. I say it again, equal but different.’ Clearly this is the case, advances in technology notwithstanding. But that is a (generally pretty clear) biological sexual distinction. To extend it beyond the roles of literal paternity and literal maternity is a largely social construct. We accept female doctors, female lawyers, female MPs, even female Prime Ministers, even women wearing trousers, all of which, 100 or so years ago, would have been regarded as unnatural and dangerous, and perhaps even immoral. Further… Read more »

Benedict
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Benedict

Simon Kershaw’s notion of priesthood rests on a functional premise, and demonstrates a secular argument, namely that because there are women barristers etc, there should be a right to ordination in the same way. No one, but no one has a “right” to be ordained in the way described.

Cynthia
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Cynthia

Thanks Simon Kershaw, you saved me some effort! It’s pretty rigid thinking that because of one difference, men are welcome to define women as completely different. More realistic is that we are all individuals with our individual differences. Theologically speaking, it takes us all to make up the Body of Christ and we each have gifts in different measure. But all guys aren’t limited to Gifts A, B, and C, while all women aren’t limited to Gifts X, Y, and Z. I think a world based on that rigid model is not very life giving. God has called women to… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

“We are heading towards a society in which there will be no distinctiveness whatsoever.”

The distinctiveness will not change. Men will be men, women will be women.
What will change is the imposition of social and other restrictions on the basis of that distinctiveness, and in particular the imposition of those differences by the powerful group on the less powerful group without taking the wishes of the less powerful group into account.

Biological difference does not justify enforced unequal treatment.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

“No one, but no one has a “right” to be ordained in the way described.” Absolutely. That’s why there is a discernment process to discover which individual who feels called to ordination does have that calling from God. And just as you cannot say “all men have the right to be ordained” so you cannot say “no woman has the right to be ordained”. Every individual called by God to the priesthood has the “right” to be ordained. It is God’s right to call them to that vocation. All we do is respond to that call. And this church has… Read more »

Barrie
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Barrie

Cynthia, can I just say that you may call opponents of women’s ordination ‘fossils’, but as someone with first-hand experience of a certain Anglo-Catholic theological college I can tell you that two-thirds of the ordinands do not accept women priests or bishops. The average age of ordinands at this college is just 32. I know there is a similar picture at other traditionalist colleges and so this is an issue that simply isn’t going to go away.

John
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John

I’m with Philip Hobday on this. I also dislike the cynicism about process implicit – effectively, explicit – in the strong-arm response to a result which most disliked. I really can’t see why FiF (and similar) and Reform (and similar) can’t be given what they want. (Yes, I know, why many here think they can’t, but I think these objections are altogether disproportionate to the matter in hand.)

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Benedict: I’m not sure how you infer that my “notion of priesthood rests on a functional premise, and demonstrates a secular argument”. I was simply challenging the logic of your statement that (to paraphrase crudely) — women have babies and men don’t, therefore women and men are different, and therefore men can be priests and women can’t. The initial premise is a reasonably clear biological fact, the middle bit is true in so far as it relates to the first bit but its extension to anything else is unproven, and the final bit is pulled out of thin air. (Okay… Read more »

commentator
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commentator

The reason i suggest that FiF and Reform cannot “simply be given what they want” is that it simply destroys the Church and any concept of communion. If you have episcopal jurisdictions that are separate you have separate churches. If that is the truth, acknowledge it. What they are asking for is the creation of three churches from one. They are asking to end the Church of England and to take its ‘brand name’ to themselves. The one to become Roman and other to be Calvinist.

John
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John

I don’t accept that it destroys ‘the Church’, since, obviously, those who were given ‘what they want’ would still – in some sense – be adhering to the concept of ‘the Church of England’, which is what they, obviously, want to do. Nor do I accept that it destroys ‘any concept of communion’. There would still be communion, at some level, through some persons. And after all this, I still stoutly maintain that these objections are ‘disproportionate’, because Christianity in any form, but perhaps particularly the C of E form, is on its uppers in the UK, and one has… Read more »

Jeremy
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Jeremy

“The invective on this thread is not at all helpful.”

Helpful to what? The cause of discrimination?

Why does that cause merit any assistance?

Cynthia
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Cynthia

It doesn’t matter to me whether the fossils are 32 or 82. One has to be blind to truly important teachings and actions in the life of Jesus Christ to carry the primitive view of male headship. That’s fine for the laity, unacceptable in clergy.

There is enough in the life of Jesus to at least give potential clergy pause.

Fossils with big blind spots. Not one more child, male or female, should be exposed to that hateful and unhealthy position.

Barrie
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Barrie

It’s not hateful or unhealthy Cynthia, it’s what people genuinely believe is the revealed word of God. You clearly believe this is a justice/equal rights issue, but I’m afraid you have to respect the fact that others think this is an obedience issue. I fully support women taking leading positions of authority in politics, business, or any other kind of organisation. But the church is not any of these things, we owe obedience to a higher power. That you call them fossils just shows the absurdity of your position- the church presumably was made up entirely of fossils until 1992?… Read more »

Simon Morden
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Simon Morden

Barrie, just a quick and somewhat rhetorical question:

If I’m a Baal worshipper, and I genuinely believe the revealed word of God instructs me to sacrifice newborn children to the flames, do you have to respect that, because for me it’s an obedience issue?

(I’d argue no, no matter how sincere a believer is, and I think you’d argue that too.)

Barrie
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Barrie

Simon, Baal worshippers have not been assured an honoured place in the Church of England ‘in perpetuity’, nor do their views represent the majority of the worldwide church. My comment was directed at those who seem to think that the views we hold are held out of nastiness and that we somehow know full well that we’re only using arguments from scripture, tradition and ecumenism as convenient excuses to justify our wicked unchristian thoughts.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Barrie
“Simon, Baal worshippers have not been assured an honoured place in the Church of England ‘in perpetuity'”

can you possibly point me to the precise wording of the assurance given 20 years ago? This is a genuine question, there seem to be so many different understandings of what was actually promised and I was not part of the debate then. I would really like to understand which of those promises people talk about or dismiss were genuine and binding and in what way.

Simon Morden
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Simon Morden

So, Barrie, to conclude: in a secular society where Baal worshipping has a residual legacy and is the national church, the majority who no longer sacrifice children have to respect the beliefs of those who do, and accept child-killing as a valid expression of the religion. Yes, it’s a reductio ad absurdum argument, but it’s pretty much where Reform is at. The CofE and society at large has, for whatever reason, decided that women should be bishops. It’s not like we don’t know the reasons objectors hold – it’s that we reject them. The way we practice our religion is… Read more »

Helen
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Helen

So what do you make of the oath of obedience, Barrie, that every ordinand has to make to the Queen as head of the Church of England?

Barrie
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Barrie

Simon your point is ridiculous. We are not an island as the CofE or the Anglican Communion. There is one God and one Church- we therefore should operate as one church, since there can only be one will of God. The Church of Rome and the Orthodox Church, which represent 95% of worldwide Christianity, are totally opposed to this novelty and as such we cannot operate independently of the rest of Christianity. “The way we practice religion is changing” – yes, in a certain part of one small communion within Christianity. We are totally out on a limb here. How… Read more »

Anne
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Anne

The WATCH paper below contains a good round up of what was actually promised, and by whom, and on what authority, and what wasn’t, when women were first ordained as priest, Erika.

http://womenandthechurch.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Promises-R-Rutherford-2011-GRAS.pdf

Barrie
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Barrie

That report puts words into traditionalists’ mouths. We do not believe that taking part in female ordinations invalidates a bishop’s orders, but we do believe that it is an act of such violence against the body of Christ that those who perform it impair their communion with the rest of the Church Catholic. That is why alternative episcopal oversight is needed, and will be needed more than ever once the CofE claims to be consecrating women bishops.

Helen
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Helen

So didn’t the Reformation happen Barrie? There are Reformed churches elsewhere, you know, with whom we are in communion. Do you discount them all?
However, we are not in communion with the Roman Catholic Church, nor does it recognise Anglican orders (even male ones!). We have operated independently of Rome for some 450 years or so, and will presumably go on doing so. If you don’t approve of this, what are you doing in the Anglican Church?

Barrie
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Barrie

I’m not an Anglican, I’m Church of England. I do not consider myself to be in communion with churches such as the TEC for instance. I believe the Reformation was a great wound inflicted against the body of Christ also, but the fact is that when it happened the priests and people of the CofE did not cease to be part of the Universal Church. We maintain that position to this day. Though we severed our ties with Rome we did not assume authority to change the matter of the sacraments. Anglican orders were declared invalid about 350 years after… Read more »

Simon Morden
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Simon Morden

Barrie – my point is only ridiculous because it points out the ridiculousness of your own position. The CofE is a church which ordains women, and has been for 20 years. We don’t need to rehash the other arguments about other communions – you lost those way back when. All we’re arguing about now is the timing of women bishops.

Cynthia
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Cynthia

“Look at your own Church- it has collapsed” Really? And that’s why my church, my diocese and over 30 percent of our dioceses have posted growth in recent years. And there’s this: http://www.episcopalcafe.com/lead/dioceses/churches_are_returning_to_the.html Sorry Barrie. We are thriving. Your beloved obedience is not to the Living Christ who broke taboos to teach, heal, and include women. Or who made women the first witnesses to the Resurrection. Or who inspired Paul to write that in Jesus there’s is neither male nor female… I’m sorry Barrie. Believing in male headship in the church requires cherry picking and prioritizing one passage of Paul… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Anne,
thank you!

Barrie,
if you believe that the WATCH report is inaccurate, can you point me to a correct report, or preferably to the original documents so we don’t have to rely on other people’s interpretation?

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“Anglican orders were declared invalid about 350 years after the reformation- and actions by popes since then indicate that this is in practice no longer their view”

The Anglo-Catholic priests who joined the Ordinariate all had to be ordained into the Roman Catholic church.

Jeremy
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Jeremy

“We do not believe that taking part in female ordinations invalidates a bishop’s orders, but we do believe that it is an act of such violence against the body of Christ that those who perform it impair their communion with the rest of the Church Catholic.”

“Violence against the body of Christ”?

Quick, where’s the ambulance?

. . .

Oh . . . you meant platonically?

So women get discriminated against, and the Church is denied their priestly ministry, for the sake of a metaphor, an abstraction?

Do you not see how this kind of thinking gives Christianity a terrible name?

Helen
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Helen

My points are as true of the Church of England as the Anglican Communion, Barrie.
You do assume an extraordinary capacity to judge others. I wonder if God agrees with you. Have you read the Gospel in which Jesus says that the Sabbath is made for man (meaning women too I assume), not man for the Sabbath. He doesn’t seem to have been a great one for rules, unlike one branch of the dear old COE.

Barrie
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Barrie

Very good use of stats there Cynthia, but you know as well as I do that the 70% of diocese that have seen decline far outweighs any growth. In fact the Episcopal Church has lost 23% of its members since 2000. And for you to talk about prioritising one passage of Paul over another really does make me laugh- you, who place your entire Pauline argument on Gal 3:28, which refers to equality of salvation rather than the abolition of gender roles. When he is actually writing about gender roles he is very clear that the model is that of… Read more »

Cynthia
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Cynthia

“Bringing rape into the issue is similarly absurd.” Only if you have no comprehension of what the 20th Century taught us. And only if your ears, heart, and mind are completely closed to the story of those who have suffered. Discrimination leaves the less powerful vulnerable. The perception of a group as weaker, as less equal, leaves them vulnerable. Look at the most extreme example, Africa. There was a recent conference on women at the UN. Women spoke of the problems there. A number of them cited the church as part of the reason for their suffering, because of the… Read more »

Helen
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Helen

You’re right, Barrie: Paul and the later writer whose pastoral epistles were attributed to Paul ( the two are usually conflated in anti women priests circles) do preach a traditional view of the family. But whose tradition? Their guidelines are standard 1st. Century Roman fare. Why? Because at the time of writing the revolutionary creed called Christianity had to look respectable. But nothing of the sort can be found in Jesus’ reported sayings. That’s one reason why most of us don’t think the Church should behave like the average patriarchal 1st century Roman family. There are those who prefer Paul… Read more »

Barrie
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Barrie

It’s impossible to argue with people who deny clear statistics, so I won’t bother. People can look them up themselves. To equate our position with apartheid is absolutely ludicrous. Forward in Faith has a membership which is 70% women, 45% of the opposition to women bishops in synod was female. These are Christian women who accept the teaching of the Holy Scriptures and maintain obedience to the consensus of the universal Catholic Church. Segregation, misogyny, racism, rape, oppression of all kinds are morally reprehensible, but it emphatically does not give us the right to change Church doctrine. It is your… Read more »

Cynthia
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Cynthia

Thanks Helen, for taking that on. The position, in the 21st Century, is that we know much more about ancient cultures. We know where the church has fallen off the rails, burning witches (uppity women like me), slavery, etc. We have (collectively) studied the Bible in Hebrew and Greek. We know that much of fundamentalism, such as the anti WB crowd, absolutely MUST cherry pick from the Bible to support the unsupportable. Do the liberals cherry pick as well? Yes! Of course. But the fact that there is conflicting evidence is where things get interesting. What does one do? One… Read more »