Monday, 1 April 2013

Women Bishops round-up

Here are some recent items about women bishops and women’s ministry.

GRAS (Group for Rescinding the Act of Synod) has published a spring newsletter. The major item in this is The central principle of justice and liberation for all women, the address given at the GRAS Conference and AGM held on 2 March 2013 by the Revd Canon Jane Charman.

Today’s Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4 was about Women and the Christian faith.

Jane Garvey looks at the position of women in the Christian faith. Jane visits the Coventry parish of the Reverend Katrina Scott. Also taking part are the Rev’d Lorna Hood, Moderator Designate of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and also on the Woman’s Hour Powerlist; the Rev’d Anne Stevens, Vicar of St Pancras Parish Church, London, and part of the current consultation on women bishops and a member of WATCH (Women And The Church) which is campaigning for women bishops; Sister Catherine Wybourne, a Roman Catholic nun who runs a contemplative community in Herefordshire and Tweets under the name DigitalNun.

The programme can be listened to for the next seven days on the BBC iPlayer.

Damian Thompson reports in The Telegraph that Russian Orthodox tell Archbishop of Canterbury: ordain women bishops and you can forget about unity.

Madeleine Davies writes for the Church Times about a new book, Women and Men in Scripture edited by Stephen Croft and Paula Gooder: Support for women bishops ‘is biblical’.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 1 April 2013 at 12:01pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

Thompson's essay quickly elides Russian Orthodoxy with all of the East, a habit as careless as the romance to Eastwards he derides. But while there is much underlying doctrinal uniformity among the Orthodox, there is also much jurisdictional squabbling, not entirely unlike what the Anglican Communion has experienced, including, particularly from the Russians, a feeling that others "aren't our sort of Orthodox."

Moreover, there was in 1996 a pair of consultations between the Old Catholic Churches of Utrecht (who do ordain women) with a representative group of (mostly Greek) Orthodox theologians. Sadly, the transcripts and papers weren't made available in English until 2002, but they are well worth reading, particularly to see how the Orthodox might well grapple with the issue of women in orders from a purely theological perspective. (Most of the problems in the East have to do with canonical and jurisdictional issues rather than "theology" pure and simple.) Perhaps most importantly, the Eastern theologians note the importance of the Chalcedonian Definition of the Incarnation in its implications for the "representative" role of the priestly office; also in relation to the doctrine of icons, concerning what can be perceived (the human nature) being fully derived by Christ from Mary.

I'm not suggesting change will come any time soon, but here in the states we Episcopalians have very warm relationships with various branches of the Eastern Church, particularly Constantinople and the Greeks here in the US.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Monday, 1 April 2013 at 3:00pm BST

And what would the Orthodox churches be prepared to give up in order to have unity with Anglicans I wonder? Romans and Orthodox both seem to think that unity means conformity to their own thinking.

Posted by: Andrew Godsall on Monday, 1 April 2013 at 6:17pm BST

The address by the Revd Canon Jane Charman is absolutely stunning. She notes a profound truth that it is about "nothing less than than the identity before God of female human beings as equally valued and equally loved." That this truth has consequences, including that it isn't only about consecrating WB's, it means supporting and affirming oppressed women throughout the world.

Most of all, perhaps for us in the West, she challenges us to consider that our beliefs and actions have consequences. The people I unkindly refer to as the "discriminators" must see that even if their rational is not hateful, the results of their thinking and desires to continue exclusion has harmful effects. One can no longer be blind to this reality.

Finally, in the Church Times piece, I am so glad to see that people are furthering the truth that support for inclusion is most certainly based in Scripture and strong theology, and not a modern, cultural, or secular invention.

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 1 April 2013 at 6:56pm BST

I never understand this talk about institutional unity. We would have unity if all Christians recognised that we are all one in Christ and if we stopped playing superiority games with each other but were able to let each other be different. There is no reason to assume that God requires uniformity. Everything in creation points to him rather valuing diversity instead.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 1 April 2013 at 8:22pm BST

I agree with Erika, that 'Unity' in The Church is subjectively viewed by whatever part of the Church is considering its implications: For Them!

Now Rome has stepped back - a little - from its former insistence that Rome is actually the umbilicus of The Faith; here we have Moscow making the same mistake - from its own perspective.

This should be a warning to Canterbury, that the imposition of the formerly-proclaimed 'Anglican Covenant could just serve to set up another such proprietary claim - to be the 'One True Church'.
Our Unity is 'En Christo' there is none other!

No single ecclesial body can be considered the sole arbiter of Christian Orthodoxy. But that will not stop them trying to impose the idea on others.

Christ is risen, Alleluia! He is risen indeed!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 1 April 2013 at 9:28pm BST

Since we were talking about the Orthodox...
Χριστός Ανέστη! Αληθώς Ανέστη!

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 1 April 2013 at 11:01pm BST

Woman's Hour was very inspiring and encouraging.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Tuesday, 2 April 2013 at 1:05am BST

St Benedict affirms that "we are all one in Christ and serve alike under the standard of the same Lord."

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Tuesday, 2 April 2013 at 1:29am BST

Χριστός Ανέστη! Αληθώς Ανέστη!

You are on the money Cynthia / He is indeed !!

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Tuesday, 2 April 2013 at 12:46pm BST

A generation ago the Church of England decided that there were no theological objection to the ordination of women. I don't understand why this debate is still being re-run ad-nauseam . Some people may not accept that decision but that is besides the point, the theological issued was settled. The motion before the Synod was about the legislation to enable women to be consecrcated bishops and that is what the vote was supposed to be about. The motion was lost, presumably because some people thought that it either provided inadequate protection for those who disagreed, or others that it went too far. The conjuring trick now is to find a form of words that will allow both to support new legislataion, not to debate the principle.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Tuesday, 2 April 2013 at 1:20pm BST

One of the hidden tragedies of the long-running farce about women bishops in the C of E is that the excessive amount of attention that has been focused on this has been at the expense of other issues - not least the debate that is needed about gender and sexuality and the C of E.

By becoming so fixated with women bishops (something that should have been a no-brainer, given that the theological discussions were pretty much settled before 1992), the C of E at large has failed to realise just how out of touch it has become amongst the vast majority of the population by being so anti-gay. We are (rightly) seen as an organisation with obsolete and even obscene attitudes - which wrecks any serious attempts at mission to the nation. Given that it will still be years before the women bishops issue is resolved, it now looks as if it will be a decade or more until we can say anything to society and be taken seriously.

I have no confidence (barring a major transformation) that Archbishop Welby will do anything positive in this area. Isolated voices like Giles Fraser and Bishop Alan Wilson will remain just that - isolated and disregarded as mavericks.

In 10 years' time - IF we get our act together - the nation will have long stopped listening to us at all. We are sleepwalking on the road to complete irrelevance.

Posted by: David Chillman on Tuesday, 2 April 2013 at 4:53pm BST

Go to Russia and experience this wealthy Church which props up the Putin regime, and feel the hatred against Catholics, Jews and other Protestants.sadly how the persecuted have become the persecutor.

The opinion of Russian Orthodoxy with few active members in proportion to what is claimed is worthless.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Tuesday, 2 April 2013 at 5:58pm BST

Cynthia and Launrence,

Χριστός Ανέστη! Αληθώς Ανέστη

But not until May 5 in the Eastern churches.
Another example of what could be diversity within unity within the Body of Christ, but, all too often, is just another example of division, instead.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Tuesday, 2 April 2013 at 8:11pm BST

The debate in November was lost plain and simple because those against the ordination of women to the episcopate realised that they were in the last chance saloon. It was very easy to hide behind the argument that provision was inadequate. I welcome a return to the debate over the theological position. Where are the new Thiseltons and NT Wrights clarifying what Paul meant. It's not difficult, but seems conveniently overlooked by the complementarians.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Tuesday, 2 April 2013 at 8:56pm BST

'The conjuring trick now is to find a form of words that will allow both to support the legislation, not to debate the principle'

I do disagree with this although I see that it is well intentioned and many will think it expedient. It is indeed exactly what the new Working Group and the House of Bishops is trying to do, find a formula that sufficiently obscures the principle so that those on both sides of the argument can agree to it without doing violence to their consciences.

But that's a political project not a moral one. I passionately believe that unless the Church can witness to the equal dignity and worth of women and men within the love of God then we do not have a gospel to proclaim. For that reason l'm game to carry on debating the principle for long as it takes.

Posted by: Jane Charman on Tuesday, 2 April 2013 at 10:13pm BST

"Go to Russia and experience this wealthy Church which props up the Putin regime, and feel the hatred against Catholics, Jews and other Protestants."

...or against those whom I consider to actually be faithful Russian Orthodox (see re the women of Pussy Riot: "Holy Mother of God, Cast Putin OUT!!!" Amen!)

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 3 April 2013 at 4:24am BST

My colleague Jane Charman, both in her brilliant article and in her comment here, gets right to the heart of the spiritual matter - institutional discrimination. We have been obscuring discrimination against women by listening too easily to those who claim they are being discriminated against because they will be driven out of the church if we proceed to ordain women as bishops - or indeed in some cases if we continue to ordain women as priests. We should no longer be afraid to say that we MUST discriminate against those who believe in discrimination against women. It is not acceptable to enshrine discrimination in the law of the church.
To those so called 'traditionalists' who claim that I (and people like me) are driving them out of the church there is only one answer - discrimination against a belief or point of view is not discrimination. It is striving for truth, justice and the integrity of creation. We need the confidence to say that discrimination against a person because of their gender is never acceptable and has no place in the Church of England. That is indeed a principle we must go on debating for as long as it takes.

Posted by: Andrew Godsall on Wednesday, 3 April 2013 at 7:28am BST

Thank you to Jane and Andrew, for me it has been quite a long journey since I have wanted to listen very hard to all sides of the debate.

Someone who is truly called to be a bishop will have a vocation for the flourishing of all clergy under their care regardless of tradition, being bishop (and a priest) is not a gender issue it is a matter of calling. Messy compromises just don't do it.

Posted by: Stephen on Wednesday, 3 April 2013 at 8:12am BST

I entirely agree with both Stephen and Jane above. The 'conjuring trick' essentially avoids the issue: that discrimination is wrong whether or not it is supported by 'theology'. My point is that the theology was done a generation ago, what we should now be doing is unequivocably proclaiming that to the world, not temporising the message because some people haven't got there yet.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Wednesday, 3 April 2013 at 9:16am BST

Anthony - Paula Gooder and Steve Croft have just edited the book that you are calling for I think:

Women and Men in Scripture and the Church: A Guide to the Key Issues
published on 26th March this year.

Posted by: Hilary Cotton on Wednesday, 3 April 2013 at 11:20am BST

My thanks to Jane, Andrew and Richard for their honesty. Too often in this debate the real issues are obscured.

For it to be clearly and frankly set out that those who do not wish to have a female bishop have no "gospel to proclaim", are not "striving for truth, justice and the integrity of creation" and "haven't got there yet" is the type of clarity that I like. Naturally such people have no place in the church (how could they?). That is very helpful.

It is a proper admission that the issue surrounding women bishops is not how to keep liberals and "traditionalists" in the church but rather about whether "traditionalists" can be expunged and liberals have the church all to themselves.

This is the conclusion I too have come to since November. Thus when the Synod does eventually vote on the issue it will not really be about women bishops at all and all about whether the traditionalists should leave.

If that is the place that we have come to I believe it is far more honest and helpful to see the issue in those terms rather than to hide behind a messy and ambiguous compromise that is only a pretence at unity.

The vote can therefore be the test of whether there is sufficient strength in the liberal constituency to secure monopoly control of the church. I think that the time for that has come.


Posted by: johnny may on Wednesday, 3 April 2013 at 11:40am BST

Years ago I worked with Patriarch Kirill on the WCC Standing Committee. As Principal of Leningrad Academy he did much to support women. He stayed with us in York and came to the ordination of women Deacons which thrilled him.
He was however ambitious and after 1989 realised that in the new reactionary orthodoxy of the Russian Church the way to the top was to become very conservative. He has taken his church with him.

Hilarion interfered in the English Orthodox Church where there was also support for women. Then he took it over. A number of Orthodox thinkers have written in favour of women's ordination.We must not give in to the current reactionary policies but trust that in time they will change. Meanwhile we must press on and be true to ourselves and to women priests. I have been fighting this battle for 50 years. One day we will succeed and the church and nation will be richer for it.

Posted by: Jean Mayland on Wednesday, 3 April 2013 at 11:57am BST

"A generation ago the Church of England decided that there were no theological objection to the ordination of women,"
How come the great Churches of East and West haven't arrived at the same conclusion?

Posted by: Father David on Wednesday, 3 April 2013 at 1:33pm BST

Fudges only work for so long. It is likely salutary to look at the Acts and Epistles to see how the early church had to wrestle with the circumcision debate, which for the "traditionalists" was, pardon the pun, cut and dried. They had Scripture and tradition on their side, and had little patience with notions of "spiritual" or "heart" circumcision, even though that was clearly the way forward. Papering over large gaps will not hold things together for long. Either circumcision is essential or unnecessary. The Jerusalem Council found for the latter, but apparently some did not feel it had the authority to make that judgment, and continued to insist on their view.

When dealing with such fundamental matters as membership and leadership within a body, it is vital to be very clear, and only a limited amount of dissension is permissible before the body ceases to be one.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Wednesday, 3 April 2013 at 3:19pm BST

As usual, I am profoundly out of sympathy with the sentiments of my fellow 'liberals'. I am all in favour of 'fudges'. As for Tobias' comment, it seems profoundly confused, because the self-same 'Acts' records Paul's continued allegiance to 'traditional' Judaism and indeed his actual circumcision of a fellow Jew. The issue in 'Acts' is whether GENTILE Christians need to be circumcised. There is no attempt to impose absolute uniformity.

Posted by: John on Wednesday, 3 April 2013 at 7:41pm BST

"How come the great Churches of East and West haven't arrived at the same conclusion?"

The 1st world Anglican churches have arrived at that conclusion. CoE is significantly behind.

We broke with the RC's a long time ago for a reason. We're not going to be in "unity" with them on contraception or child abuse any more than papal indulgences and infallibility, right? But we can come together on telling women we're less in the eyes of God?

As for the Orthodox, I was raised Greek Orthodox. The patriarchy is intolerably oppressive and it is cultural. If you guys want to be in unity with that, turn the calendars back 20 centuries... At least the food is good.

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 3 April 2013 at 8:37pm BST

Johnny I think people are trying to figure out the impossible. There is no way to include institutional discrimination that isn't humiliating and degrading to women. Not just the women bishops, but all women, because the message is that we aren't created equally in the image of God and equally loved and equally deserving of dignity. We've learned that separate is unequal, and that inequality leads to appalling suffering.

We've learned that there is strong reason in Scripture and early church history to accept women in all levels of ministry. Given the cultural context, the place of women is stunning. It's possible to have a different reading of Scripture, but I think one needs to be open to the possibility of the liberating message.

Discrimination causes real suffering. I haven't seen "traditionalists" address that. All I hear is that they want their boys club and whatever it costs other people is fine with them. And that's pretty much the same attitude we saw with racism, anti-semitism, colonialism, etc.

Mother Church has participated vigorously in the injustice of this world. We live in a time when we can see the awful truths and that gives us the opportunity to see if we can enter into God's Dream for us. Somehow, I just don't see continued, intentional discrimination as part of God's Dream. Perhaps the next generation of children, both girls and boys, will grow up without any stigmas inflicted by the church.

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 3 April 2013 at 8:55pm BST

"We should no longer be afraid to say that we MUST discriminate against those who believe in discrimination against women. It is not acceptable to enshrine discrimination in the law of the church"

- Andrew Godsall -

This is the situation in a nutshell - a similar nutshell to that described by Dame Julian of Norwich as encapsulating all the truth about our Creation, and God's relationship to his human children. There is no room for a two-tier ranking of Women in the Church - either as clergy or bishops. Either they are - or they aren't. Simple!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 3 April 2013 at 10:54pm BST

John, you misunderstand me. The issue was whether one could be a Christian without circumcision, not something one could "fudge" if one held to the absolutist position. As Jewish Christians were already circumcised, naturally this only concerned gentiles; but it was absolute uniformity that was being demanded -- their view was that all Christians must be circumcised.

The church decided not to fudge, as no fudge could please those who insisted on an absolute requirement. Those who could not accept that decision eventually became a tiny minority, and presumably disappeared at some point.

The problem at present is, I argue, similar in that it is difficult to confect a fudge that makes logical sense of a contradiction. Some argue only men can be ministers in the episcopate. The fudge involves them putting up with the existence of ministers they do not recognize as such. The problem is how to structure that within an episcopal system; as a question of polity, the fudge introduces a kind of ministerial "receptionism" that goes counter Article XXIII. (This is all quite apart from issues of sexism and discrimination, which others have highlighted.)

As recognition of ministers is an intrinsic part of what it means to be in communion as a church, having ministers whom some are allowed to ignore as such cuts at the essence of what the ministry means for the church, most especially episcopal ministry. The fudge in effect institutionalizes schism.

I am not interested in pushing anyone out of the church, and this is also why I am willing to engage the debate with those who oppose OOW; as I would hope to change their minds -- a mind which I hasten to add I once had myself. Short of the debate, I think all we have is either the fudge or the exclusion.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Wednesday, 3 April 2013 at 11:19pm BST

"it will not really be about women bishops at all and all about whether the traditionalists should leave."

Surely I can't be the only one who believes johnny may is writing satire? [I'm not sure w/ what intent---Ignorant Yank here]

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 4 April 2013 at 12:59am BST

The so called 'traditionalists' don't seem to get a really basic fact. Of course they are loyal Anglicans. Of course they are welcome at any church at any time. Of course they are welcome to band together for mutual support and fellowship. What they are not welcome to do is discriminate in law against a priest or bishop simply because of their gender. Why is that so difficult to understand?

Posted by: Andrew Godsall on Thursday, 4 April 2013 at 8:43am BST

'Writing satire?'

JCF - no - you are not the only one, although I'm not sure I would call it 'satire.' I think the 'intent' is plain enough!

Posted by: Stephen Morgan on Thursday, 4 April 2013 at 9:32am BST

This is not about so-called liberals or so called traditionalists, nor even about equality legislation. It is hard-core theology: did God create second-class Christians based on their gender, and if so, where does he say so? Also, is it possible within one ecclesial body to have members in ministry whose ministry is not recognised by their colleagues in ministry, especially if they are entrusted with conferring and passing on that ministry? We do indeed need to be able to live with difference, and to respect each others' conscience, but that is something the so-called traditionalists seem unable to do, based on the theology of other churches which do not recognise the traditionalists' own orders, as is shown in the case of the Ordinariate. Some of us do not accept that Roma locuta est; causa finita est.

Posted by: gerry reilly on Thursday, 4 April 2013 at 5:44pm BST

One could be easily be tempted to think that patriarchal religion needs to put some disfavored group through a spin cycle of abuse. Debating whether women or LGBTs should be included in ministry is one way to traumatize people.

Either religious institutions will finally come out for equality for women or people will simply stop supporting the institutions.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Friday, 5 April 2013 at 7:12am BST

Oh dear brothers and sisters,. Here we go again! I have read this correspondence with great sadness. See how the brethren love one another. If we really cannot find a better tone to these discussions, and remember that we CAN disagree in love, and find a place within our Church for all the brethren, especially for those with whom we disagree, then perhaps we should shut up shop!

Posted by: Frank Nichols on Friday, 5 April 2013 at 10:20am BST

JCF and Stephen, I'm flattered (I think) but I'm afraid I'm not much of a humourist. I intended absolutely no satire whatsoever!

Rather, I genuinely think that the time has come to test the strength of the different parts of the CofE.

Nothing is being achieved by endless discussions about whether "equality" requires equality of outcome- the two/three sides cannot be reconciled. Nor is anything being achieved by continuing to debate whether being "discriminating" can be a wise virtue or is always a poisonous vice.

Likewise, increasingly vitriolic expressions of the different opinions on both sides is not helpful to anyone in or outside the church.

So, I propose a "trial of strength".

Before someone says that all the issues are resolved etc- they are not- there are no women bishops because a two-thirds majority has never been achieved for the means to create them. All the votes approving the principle have been simple majorities and it has always been known that is not enough to enact this fundamental change.

It would appear that there is a two-thirds liberal majority in the Houses of Bishops and clergy for most things (not just women bishops). The test comes in the Laity.

Therefore, far from being ironic, I was approving the idea that the next vote on Women Bishops should be used to see if the liberal constituency has sufficient support in all Houses to force out everyone else.

If that vote takes place after the 2015 synod elections, all the better. It would be helpful if the electorate knew that the elections were effectively about the single issue of a place for traditionalists vs a wholly liberal church and could select their Synod representatives accordingly.

If the Liberals won then they would have pretty much free reign on the other contentious issues that concern them and we'd have the fully "inclusive" church they seek in double quick time. On the other hand if they lost then it would decisively show that traditionalists are embedded in the Church, even if not a majority, and then (probably structural) arrangements would have to be made to provide for the different factions to co-exist.

I'd welcome the views of others but isn't knocking all this on the head by a "quasi-referendum" preferable to endless futile attempts to square circles that can't be squared and attempts to reconcile the irreconcilable?


Posted by: johnny may on Friday, 5 April 2013 at 12:10pm BST

Cynthia, God bless you for the force of your convictions and erudition in expressing them.

I'm not sure I speak for "traditionalists" but it seems to be the role I'm taking on at the moment on here. To the extent therefore that I am going to disagree with you I trust that you will see it as a response to your invitation, not a personal slight.

I would point out:

A. that there is "suffering" on all sides- some women find it hugely offensive that their years of faithful un-ordained service of the Church is today not viewed as the equal of that of an ordained woman (or man)by those who suggest that if "equality" does not manifest itself in job titles it is not equality at all. Likewise I read as many stories of traditionalists being bullied by liberal bishops as I do of women being bullied by illiberal ones. I, in turn, invite you to address the suffering of those women who think that they will be "unchurched" by some answer that doesn't suggest they are unable to see that they are unwitting collaborators in their own oppression when they are clearly immensely able and fully in their right minds.

B. the weakness I see in Canon Charman's piece and some of your comments is that there is no evidence that not consecrating women in England has any impact on i.e. the suffering of women in India at all. It is powerfully emotive to bead together women bishops with schoolgirls being shot by the Taleban but until there is some evidence of a real connection that is all it is- emotive. I could say that the exclusion of Christians from public discourse by the UK government contributes to the martyrdom of our brethren in Egypt. It is emotive but is it true?

You have previously made similar points linking the "exclusion" of LGBT people from the church with the tragic suicide rate of LGBT people. Again I see no evidence of a link. (If there is hard empirical evidence as opposed to anecdote then, of course it is a critical point). Again, the group with the highest suicide rate in the UK is white middle aged men- is that because the church is excluding them too much? It may be- some would say the church here is too "feminised"- but I couldn't prove the connection.


Posted by: johnny may on Friday, 5 April 2013 at 12:53pm BST

"If we really cannot find a better tone to these discussions, and find a place within our Church for all the brethren, especially for those with whom we disagree, then perhaps we should shut up shop!"

Frank: you miss the point entirely. It's not about finding a place for "all the brethren" - it's about understanding that all the brothers and sisters are equal and need to be treated equally. The argument is not about people, but a principle that enables proper respect for half of the human race.

Posted by: Andrew Godsall on Friday, 5 April 2013 at 2:43pm BST


Think the problem with the 2/3 majority required in the House of Laity is that the small minority -much less than the misquoted report stated, I have the e mail from the author - cynically packed those standing for General Synod and who did not always state their views at the hustings so that the House of Laity is completely unrepresentative of the laity at large, so this is not a good test of anything, it is all an very unfortunate mess.

Posted by: Stephen B on Friday, 5 April 2013 at 3:00pm BST

Johnny, I appreciate the thought process you present.

In the US, there is a strong correlation between the "God hates fags" crowd and teen suicide. The suicide rate skyrocketed in districts where local "Christians" went to the school boards demanding a removal of LGBT from the anti-bullying policies. When teachers feared for their jobs if they intervened, bullying went up, as did suicides. It's not anonymous, we know who the kids were and that they were bullied in school and via social networking.

In the US, we also learned from MLK that you can't legislate that a man love his brother, but the state could pass laws preventing that man from killing his brother (at least not with the impunity of the past). And we learned that the state could pass laws making all equal under the law. We also learned that separate is inherently unequal, and that unequal always left the weaker party vulnerable.

I've done short term work in a patriarchal 3rd World (maybe 6 months worth at this point) country. The lack of equality and female role models clearly contributes to misery.

You underestimate that what the church says and does can actually affirm the abusers or lift up the oppressed. After all, some of the worst countries are in the Anglican Communion.

In my particular country, it was a shock when female priests and our female PB visited. The lift it gave to the women at the school where I teach was amazing.

I'm a Witness, Johnny. I'm not just spoutin' smack. (Smack - sports lingo, denigrating the opposing team as a verbal sport in itself - in this case it would be CoE and Wales vs. TEC.) There is deep impact in what the church does and I would love to see people look beyond themselves. After all, you and I live in the most powerful and prosperous countries the world has ever known. Yes, we need to address the suffering within our borders, but as the church, we also need to look beyond and to lift up others.

Posted by: Cynthia on Friday, 5 April 2013 at 5:16pm BST

Stephen B, thanks for your comment,

With regard to, "...cynically packed those standing for General Synod and who did not always state their views at the hustings"

Is there any evidence of the former and any evidence that with regard to the latter this was more true of those opposing Women Bishops than those supporting?

I rather think that there is not.

There are plenty who have gone on and on about the votes in the dioceses, claiming that they were properly representative but that ignores the fact that the franchise for both Diocesan and General Synods are identical- it is therefore not possible to say that one is more representative than the other. Or that one was "cynically packed" but the other could not be.

Anyway, the referendum I have proposed by way of the 2015 elections would surely leave nowhere for anyone to hide or for any "cynical packing". Then we'd find out where the laity really stood on kicking out traditionalists.

My suspicion is that the laity are much less keen to do so than the clergy/bishops but I suppose two-thirds might be achieved- it would be interesting to see.

I also think that, in a strange sort of way it might be a relief to everyone. If the traditionalists are not wanted then isn't it kinder that they know? Likewise if they are to stay with some structural solution, liberals may well be able to do their own thing within "their" part of the church.

I am convinced that such clarity is superior to a slow war of attrition.


Posted by: johnny may on Friday, 5 April 2013 at 5:25pm BST

The issue for me is not whether "traditionalists" or "scripturalists" - I take both tradition and scripture seriously - stay with a "structural" "solution" (which for me is human and divisive) - but whether they stay as my acknowledged christian sisters and brothers. That is what is at stake here, and most advocated "structural" "solutions" create two (or more) churches, a procedure which solves nothing, and cannot properly be adopted by a church which pretends to constitutional unity. The "structural" "solutions" I have seen are neither clear nor coherent.

I do not think that there are many "cynical" people involved here - most are passionately committed. I do think that there is a culture in the church which doesn't realise how political it is - and that our politics are less inclusive than our liturgy. (I once asked my prospective theological college principals how they engaged with the politics of liturgy - too few people are interested in even asking the question).

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Friday, 5 April 2013 at 10:06pm BST

Before this thread reaches the end of its lifespan may I respond to Johnny who questions whether there is any proof of a connection between our own religious views and beliefs and the treatment of women globally. I recommend reading the Agreed Conclusions of the 57th meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women which was held a few weeks ago in New York and at which the Church of England was represented. Go to

The Commission clearly identifies the connection between gender stereotyping and violence against women and girls and calls on States ‘to refrain from invoking any custom, tradition or religious consideration’ which seeks to justify gender stereotyping or undermine the equal rights of women and girls generally.

Theology is potent. It shapes opinion, guides behaviour and influences actions. If it does not intend to do these things or is not capable of doing them then what is the point of it at all? In the context of this debate it does seem to me that some people are acting as though theology is ‘just words’ with no bearing on real life. So we feel free to press into service on the floor of synod theologies which describe female human nature as tainted or inferior but also want to distance ourselves from the results of that when people elsewhere treat women and girls 'as though it was actually true'.

Doing theology is a moral task which we ought to approach with the utmost seriousness both as individuals and as Christian communities. That includes taking responsibility for how our theology ‘travels’ and how it is interpreted and applied beyond the context in which it was originally uttered.

Posted by: Jane Charman on Saturday, 6 April 2013 at 1:31pm BST

Here's from a Senegalese author at that UN conference:
Au Sénégal comme dans la plupart des pays du monde et notamment des pays africains, les rapports hommes femmes sont régis par un model patriarcal, qui consacre la soumission de la femme à l'homme, la confinant dans l'espace domestique et l'excluant pratiquement de tous les espaces de décision au niveau de la communauté. Mais il faut dire qu'en vérité, au Sénégal cette situation a été accentuée par les religions, celle chrétienne venue avec la colonisation française et celle musulmane, qui a pris souche dès le 11ème siècle.

Clearly, the author cites religion as a major cause of the gross inequality of women and girls in Senegal. People know what oppresses them.

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 6 April 2013 at 8:35pm BST

Dear Canon Charman, thank you for your response and your original "GRAS" piece.

I too fear that the thread may close soon which is a shame.

I had already read the "Agreed Conclusions" , which fortunately have been widely disseminated.

I note the following:

A. I agree that theology is potent. However, if we did our potent theology according to the views of the UN we'd end-up with some very ungodly results indeed. Theology must drive the secular debate, not respond to it as you seem to suggest.

B. I was looking for empirical evidence which linked the absence of women bishops in England with all the types of gross oppression of women throughout the world. As you know the "Conclusions" deliberately say nothing about the whether all types of roles in all religions must be open to both genders, nor whether it is "stereotypical" to say that they are not, nor whether treating the genders as equal but different (as virtually all UN countries do) undermines equality. If you rely on this report in support of your argument I fear that you are overlaying your Western and particular understanding of those concepts upon phrases that the UN never meant to support that interpretation.

C. Therefore, surely what is required for mission is a definition of gender equality that respects that most cultures do not, cannot and will not regard the genders as interchangeable. Of course, alongside that we will teach forcefully that difference is not the same as inequality. To refuse such an approach is to make gender interchangeability itself the sole gospel (as perhaps some on this site are perhaps prone to do).

D. I would never remind you that Christianity teaches that men and women are eternally equal in every way regardless of their role in the church. It seems decidedly unhelpful therefore to potentially suggest to women in other cultures that they must count themselves oppressed until women can be bishops in England.

E. It strikes me that what the oppressed women of the UN need most is not western definitions of what equality might mean but rather men who have been converted (in every sense) to following the example of the Lord Jesus in offering their lives in self-sacrificial service of women and of their wives in particular. For me that comes some streets ahead of whether women in England ought to be bishops.


Posted by: johnny may on Saturday, 6 April 2013 at 9:30pm BST

On any analysis the General Synod (which I sat on for 17 years) is unrepresentative, particularly in the laity. The 2015 election will be a single issue one and will start in part in 2014 with the elections from PCCs to the deanery synods, the electoral colleges in each diocese for elections to the House of Laity. Sitting members who are up for re-election who voted against the Measure will be specifically targeted and new members will be scrutinised in an intrusive a way as possible. This is what happened in 1980 when the conservatives tried to pack the General Synod, but failed on the issue of women priests. The secretive 1990 Group group which did that still exists and is still very active. The CofE is episcopally led and synodically governed. To achieve the result that each diocese so urgently seeks requires these political measures.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Saturday, 6 April 2013 at 11:11pm BST

Johnny May wrote:
I am surprised that you referred to the existence of "stories of traditionalists being bullied by liberal bishops". Please would you give us some examples of this.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 7 April 2013 at 9:17am BST

Simon, I'm dashing to church- but to give one example relevant to the thread- did you not listen to the vilification of evangelical women on television, in public and all over the media by bishops after the November vote?

How many of those women (and men with similar views)do you think will feel that their "chief pastor" is offering any pastoral support at all for them?

Likewise, who would want to be a young, traditional potential ordinand in such a diocese?

Why are traditionalist ordination candidates examined extensively on their view of women's ordination when supposedly they are entitled not to be discriminated against?

Why do the internet replete with suggestions that bishops refuse to let ordinands go to place like Oak Hill or Wycliffe Hall but don't apply the same strictures to liberal ordinands by forcing them to attend conservative colleges. Why in diocesan "equality training" was someone allowed to get away with calling a member of the diocese a "Nazi" for suggesting that their might be something in headship etc, etc


Posted by: johnny may on Sunday, 7 April 2013 at 10:57am BST

No, Johnny, I didn't observe any bishops doing that in November. Could you please name at least one such bishop, and preferably provide a link to a report of his behaviour, to which you object.

What concrete evidence do you have that ordinands, or prospective ordinands are being discriminated against on the basis of their views on WO?

Can you name the diocese in which the "Nazi" reference took place?

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 7 April 2013 at 3:35pm BST

As Johnny hasn't replied to me after four days, I'm inclined to think that he is not able to provide any evidence to support his claims. However, if anybody else reading this has such evidence, I would be glad to hear the details of it.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 12 April 2013 at 9:20am BST

Bullying is a serious matter. It often takes place behind closed doors, in private conversations, where there is no evidence other than the victim’s personal experience.
It is not an easy matter for clergy to publicly ‘name and shame’ a Bishop, if there is no objective evidence to fall back on. It can even lead to further mistreatment. It doesn’t mean the bullying didn’t happen – it just highlights the imbalance of power and the vulnerable position that victims (including clergy) find themselves in.

Posted by: Philip on Friday, 12 April 2013 at 11:06am BST

Simon, if you are minded to leave the thread open I will reply over the weekend once a rather busy week is over. I will not, however name the diocese where the bishop is still serving for fear of further bullying of the victim who is also still in the diocese.


Posted by: Johnny may on Friday, 12 April 2013 at 12:33pm BST

no threads on TA ever close, they just move off current list. They are all accessible in the archives and they are all open for comment.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 12 April 2013 at 4:56pm BST
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