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N.T. Wright on the Women Bishops Debacle in the Church of England

N.T. Wright on the Women Bishops Debacle in the Church of England November 23, 2012

I must confess that I’m growing weary of the mantra that the failure of the Church of England (COE) to ordain women into the episcopacy is the fault of a few geriatric conservatives among the laity who have been exercising a disproportionate degree of power. For instance, see Sarah Coakley’s piece at ABC Religion and Ethics where she says: “[I]t has long been noted that the House of Laity contains more than its expected share of conservative, elderly or bureaucratically-inclined church people.”  So much for encouraging a broad church and listening to our elders! Moreover, British PM David Cameron has said that the COE should “get with the programme.” Cameron’s remarks summarize my concern. I can understand people advocating the elevation of women to the episcopacy as a matter of scriptural principle and missional imperative, in fact I’m broadly sympathetic, but I’m hearing others advocate the position because there is a widespread belief that the church, as a state church no less, is morally obliged to mirror the values of society.  To which I would reply, “Ahm, no it’s bloody not.” This is the Church of England, not  Die Deutsche Reichskirche we are dealing with here. We are not beholden to the state to do its bidding in social policy.

Over at Fulcrum N.T. Wright has an article taking on David Cameron’s premise, titled, “It’s About the Bible, not Fake Ideas of Progress.”

According to Wright:

It won’t do to say, then, as David Cameron did, that the Church of England should “get with the programme” over women bishops. And Parliament must not try to force the Church’s hand, on this or anything else. That threat of political interference, of naked Erastianism in which the State rules supreme in Church matters, would be angrily resisted if it attempted to block reform; it is shameful for “liberals” in the Church to invite it in their own cause. The Church that forgets to say “we must obey God rather than human authorities” has forgotten what it means to be the Church. The spirit of the age is in any case notoriously fickle. You might as well, walking in the mist, take a compass bearing on a mountain goat.

Now Wright believes in women bishops (see this video), so his criticism here is quite acute.

Note: I should add that my own ebook on women and ministry will be released on Christmas day by Zondervan along with two other ebooks on the same topic by John Dickson and Katherine Keller. More anon!

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