Church of England on eve of decisive vote on women as bishops


The Church of England may well vote tomorrow on controversial legislation that would finally permit women to be ordained as bishops, although not in precisely the same way that men are bishops, because the authority of male bishops has not been shaped to placate those who do not believe that men should be bishops in the first place.

Robert Barr of the Associated Press has the story:

After decades of debate, the Church of England votes Tuesday on whether it will finally admit women to the ranks of bishops – under a compromise proposal that has angered the faithful on both sides of the argument.

A majority of the church’s governing General Synod is ready to say yes, but that doesn’t mean it’s all wrapped up. The vote needs a two-thirds majority in order to be approved, and an unlikely coalition of advocates and opponents of female bishops may have enough strength to derail the motion. Some voices on both sides argue that the church’s compromise asks them to concede too much. …

If the vote falls short of the two-thirds majority, the General Synod would have to start all over. Church officials say it could take five years to prepare new legislation and complete all the steps leading to a final vote. …

Peter Broadbent, bishop of Willesden in London, has called for a “yes” vote so that the church does not “look completely stupid in the eyes of society.”

More than 1,000 clergy have signed an open letter making the Biblical case for the legislation. It makes three points:

First, because the Bible teaches that “in Christ there is no male or female”, but all people are equal before God. Just as the churches have repented of our historic antisemitism and endorsement of slavery, so we believe that we must now show clearly that we no longer believe women to be inferior to men.

Secondly, Jesus treated women radically equally. He encouraged them as disciples, and chose a woman as the first witness to His resurrection, at a time when women’s testimony was inadmissible in law.

Thirdly, we have promised as clergy to “proclaim the faith afresh in every generation”. We fear that failing to take this step would do the opposite, proclaiming instead that the church is more interested in the past than the future.

Thinking Anglicans has a good round-up of commentary on the issue.

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