C of E and Women Bishops

From UK Guardian:

The Church of England has been plunged into its gravest crisis in decades after legislation that would have allowed female clergy to become bishops, and swept away centuries of entrenched sexism, was rejected by just six votes.

In dramatic scenes at Church House in Westminster, a long-awaited measure that was the result of 12 tortuous years of debate and more than three decades of campaigning was defeated by lay members, prompting one bishop to warn that the established church risked becoming “a national embarrassment”.

The legislation had needed a two-thirds majority in each house of synod to pass, but, despite comfortably managing that in both the houses of bishops and clergy, it was dealt a fatal blow in the laity, where lay members voted 132 votes in favour and 74 against. If just six members of the laity had voted for instead of against, the measure would have been passed.

The result is a huge disappointment for campaigners who warned that the church’s image in the eyes of parliament and the public had been severely damaged. It was also a bitter blow to Rowan Williams, the outgoing archbishop of Canterbury, whose time at Lambeth has been dominated by the issue and who had campaigned personally for a yes vote.

“Of course I hoped and prayed that this particular business would be at another stage before I left, and of course it is a personal sadness, a deep personal sadness, that that is not the case,” he said .

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://google.org Andy

    “The result is a huge disappointment for campaigners who warned that the church’s image in the eyes of parliament and the public had been severely damaged.”

    This is entirely predictable coming from the Guardian. Did the bishop and others appeal to scripture as the authority all, not the public’s view of the church? Who cares how the public views the church if the church is not anchored and led by the word of God!

  • Mark

    Very sad news. I’m very surprised that this happened to an organization that has been under the leadership of Williams, Wright, etc for some time now.

  • EricW

    Luke 9:60 – Jesus to the women bishops/clergy and their supporters.

  • Steve Sherwood

    BECAUSE of the testimony of scripture, I find this deeply disappointing.

  • http://christianpacifismblog.wordpress.com/ Michael Snow

    It is encouraging to see that there are still rank and file members who will stand on God’s word even when Bishops will not.

  • Jon Bartlett

    It is a shame that the rank and file members do not understand God’s word, when the Bishops get it.

  • James Petticrew

    If I understand the “politics” of this right, the main reason it failed to get the majority in the house of the laity was that certain people felt that insufficient provision and protection had been made for parishes who wished not to be under the authority of a female bishop. An earlier compromise of having “flying bishops” for these congregations was rejected by those who supported women bishops was rejected earlier in the year as they felt it undermined the authority of female bishops and made them “secondary” in some sense to their male counterparts.

    So this isn’t just an issue about whether women should be bishops or not, its also about reassurance for Anglo Catholics and conservative evangelicals.

  • http://transformingseminarian.blogspot.com Mark Baker-Wright

    I think it bears noting. The measure DID get a majority in the house of the laity (as well as elsewhere). However, it failed to get the necessary 2/3rds vote. Look at those numbers again: “132 votes in favour and 74 against.” A very CLEAR majority.

    And, to those of you who are snidely suggesting that those in favor of women bishops have rejected the Bible… You clearly haven’t been paying attention on this very blog, where Scot has been demonstrating a biblical foundation for women in ministry for quite some time.

  • Jerry

    I personally favor women in ministry but know this is a sensitive subject for many. How much of the pushback is based on maintaining ecumenical ties to the RCC and Orthdox.

  • James Petticrew

    Jerry that is THE big issue for the Anglo Catholics, the other group who comprise the opposition with the Anglo Catholics are the conservative evangelicals who believe that to have a woman bishop, would mean for them having to submit to their authority and so bring them into conflict with their understanding of leadership in the NT which they contend doesn’t allow women to exercise authority over men.

    The Pope of course seriously undermined the ecumenical relations between the two churches by setting up a section of the Catholic Church in which Anglicans can still use their liturgy but come under papal authority. He did this without consulting or informing the C of E ignoring the structures specifically set up for that purpose, so many in the Anglican church are too bothered about being held back by the ecumenical implications of their decisions as the RC church seems to have largely ignored the process.

  • EricW

    2,000 years later, and the majority of Christians still think that the church, the BRIDE of Christ, cannot have women in leadership/servantship positions.

    δακρύει ὁ Ἰησοῦς.

  • Evelyn

    As a British Anglican, female, possible future ordinand, I found myself rapidly cycling through the stages of grief over this issue. The Anglican communion values its koinonia and therefore works with a radical inclusiveness that means having to take seriously the opinions of a minority. But I do find myself wondering about how high a price one should pay to keep these theologically so different groups on board. There are no simple answers, and for what it’s worth, I think the crowing on twitter and certain sections of the press about how the whole church looks bad is really unfair. As posted above, it was overwhelmingly supported by the church. Sigh.

  • phil_style

    Just for some context:

    1. apparently the vote only missed by 4! A tiny margin (my source is mainstream media.. so it might be wrong)
    2. Many from the pro-women bishops side of the debate voted against this measure because they think it still left room for some distinction between the authority of men v women bishops. It was a compromise measure.

    Were a full equality bill presented to the Synod, it would almost certainly be passed.

  • Evelyn

    By 6, in the House of Laity. Passed everywhere esle.

  • Richard

    Scott, this kerfuffle within the Anglican community has over women priests has renewed some thoughts that have been rolling around in my head. I have a question for all you theological experts . It is a serious question for which I have not seen an answer that has satisfied me. Most of the time the question is avoided. Bit, I’ll try again. Is the the biblical role of women in leadership really applicable to today? And has culture been the primary driver on the woman’s role in the church?
    My question arise from a cultural role of women in society. Historically, women were subject to the male in all circumstances. Except for a few matriarchal societies, men generally were dominant over women. You never saw a woman high priest with the Jews or a priest. Pagan nations had women priests or priestesses but the were primarily condemned for idolatrous practices. The early church adopted the Jewish pattern and had primarily men in leadership. The scriptures taught from this background so naturally men would be elevated. As the church became more organized and became the state church, it continued the pattern. The Catholic Church, most fundamental and reformed churches do the same. It has only been in the last hundred years or so that women have taken on the role of pastor.
    Jesus emphasize that in his kingdom, there was no difference between man and woman. So I’m wondering if that extends to church leadership. I’m really wondering if, since the scriptures were written in a male dominated society, if the role of women has been misrepresented by even scripture? That ought to ruffle feathers! But honestly, could God be forcing our culture to free women from ancient cultural stereotypes in order to reveal what his plan for men and women in his kingdom is really like?
    I honestly don’t know but would like some of you who sport the degrees to weigh into this without putting the heretic liable on me.


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