Monday, 5 July 2010

Should women ever be bishops?

[...] The Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright – a highly respected figure on all sides of the church – has long supported women in the episcopate, but he believes that there is a strong theological imperative not to push through legislation that will cause more division. "There are clear guidelines in the Bible about contentious issues," says Wright. "We ought to expect to have demands made on our patience and on our charity but not on our consciences, and we have been forgetting this in our eagerness to push this or the other agenda.

"We have been trying to square a circle," he continues, "and we don't seem to have found a way of doing that. This is possibly a sign that we are not yet ready to run ahead. But the process of Synod is like an escalator – once you're on it, you can't get off." Waller agrees that the four-day meeting will be trying to do too much in too short a time, and warns of dire consequences should the solution please some but not others. He points to the fractious, fragmented nature of the Anglican church in the US: "Everyone suing each other, breakaway groups…"

For those who want to see women bishops soon, however, there is both an urgency to right injustice and a need for the church to move on from a bitter and time-consuming row. Many of the female priests I speak to say that they are disturbed by the amount of energy the debate consumes. "It's an important issue," says Hedges, "but it needs to be settled. The church has taken an enormous amount of care to find the right way forward, and if what is presented to Synod gets the right majority to go through, I think that has given the mind of the church."

"If we are constantly at war," says Hudson-Wilkin, "we are taking our eyes off the main business, which is proclaiming good news." She bristles once more. "It wasn't the right time when we ordained women as deacons, it wasn't the right time when we ordained women as priests, and it will not be the right time when we consecrate women as bishops. It will never be the right time for those who are intrinsically opposed to women in leadership within the church." Read more

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