(Reuters) – The Church of England published a plan on Friday to approve the ordination of women bishops by 2015, a widely supported reform it just missed passing last November after two decades of divisive debate.
It said the new plan, outlined in a document signed by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Archbishop of York John Sentamu, would be presented to the General Synod, the Church legislature, in July to begin the approval process.
The proposal would make allowances for traditionalists who oppose women clergy, a minority that blocked the reform at the last Synod meeting, but each diocese will have to have a bishop willing to ordain women to the priesthood, it said.
The issue pits reformers, keen to project a more modern and egalitarian image of the church as it struggles with falling congregations in many increasingly secular countries, against a minority of conservatives who see the change as contradicting the Bible.
“We are perhaps at a moment when the only way forward is one which makes it difficult for anyone to claim outright victory,” said Bishop Nigel Stock, chairman of the working group drawing up new proposals after the reform’s defeat last November.
The emergent movement comprises communities of Christ-followers who desire to recover a sense of authenticity, passion, vulnerability, and intimacy in their lives together. They organize their communities in an intentionally organic way, such that these ideals become (at least conceptually) more attainable that they have appeared to be in institutional forms of church.
The caveat here, from a Kierkegaardian point of view, is that when the alteration of the organization becomes the means whereby these aims can be attained, too much freight is given to change in “circumstance” as the hope for renewal, authenticity, and the recovery of the essentially Christian. Nonetheless, it does seem that at some point action must be taken; this is very Kierkegaardian, too.
Emergent Christianity’s attempt to creatively rethink the nature of the church in this changing world will serve the larger (established) church well—to the extent they take notice. Even if the transiency of emergent communities and the lack of institutional structure make propagation a serious challenge, the burst of creativity and critical reflection within emergent Christianity offers—at the very least—an important renewal resource for more empathetic traditional churches.