As the intensive facilitated discussions on legislation to allow women to be bishops start today WATCH has published these two articles, from which I have extracted a few key paragraphs.
The issue in front of us is not primarily doctrinal. That hurdle was jumped in the 1970’s and the church has not retreated from its clear commitment that there are no theological principles in our understanding of the tradition preventing women entering holy orders.
The issue is, therefore, fundamentally about the order of the church. The order of the Church of England is that if you are ordained deacon you may be ordained priest after one year and if you are ordained priest you may be ordained Bishop after 6 years and if you are over 30 years of age. Canon C2 sets out the refinements of this. Driving a permanent wedge between the priesthood and the episcopate is destructive of our tradition and order.
That is one of the reasons why the language of reception was used when women were admitted to the priesthood. The experience of this ministry would seal the issue. There can be no doubt that the period is reception is long passed. When the Archbishop Rowan suggested that, in theory, it was possible for the church to reverse its decision to ordain women into the priesthood, he very quickly had to retract. There is no doubt reception time is done.
Within the Church of England defending the rights of some individuals and groups to discriminate against women currently has a high priority and is connected in many minds with upholding freedom and diversity. By contrast witnessing to the equal dignity and worth of women in society has a low priority. It is not a moral imperative for us. Opponents of women’s ministry have worked hard to alter our perceptions in this way, to present gender discrimination as a respectable alternative position within the life of the Church and themselves as victims of intolerance. This reversal of values seems perverse and incomprehensible, even morally repugnant, to those outside the Church.
I voted for the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure last November, having persuaded myself that it was the best of the options available to us. I wanted to respect the views of others and make gracious provision for those who tell us they are struggling with this issue for theological reasons. I particularly wanted to find a way for the Church of England to break out of the current impasse and move forward with the pressing missional task that is before us.
I have come to understand that what I did was wrong. I was supporting a lesser good at the expense of a greater good. We cannot place the needs and wishes of a small number of our own members above our vocation to declare a gospel of justice and mercy for all human beings. We cannot achieve our goal of having women in the House of Bishops on such terms.