So 20 years ago the Church of England’s General Synod approved the ordination of women, this was a significant year for me to as this was the year that I became aware of God’s call on my own life. Two years later still not knowing what or where my calling would lead me I was working in a high street photo lab in Norwich, I remember it feeling a very special day when I was processing photos of some of the first women to be ordained priest.
Since then of course the lord had led me into youth work and now to be ordained myself, having become a priest within the C of E at the end of June this year. Throughout my work (and study) over the last few years I have come to know and value the ministry of many women priests (and ordinands in training) it has been a joy and a privilege to be ministered to by them and to minister alongside them, I deeply value both their ministry and their friendship.
The case for women Bishops is something that has been being discussed and argued about for 10 years or more and in many respects yesterdays result is a devastating blow for many of those female colleagues of mine but for the church as a whole.
However although I would have voted yes had I been on Synod I was not entirely convinced by the measure put forward. I’m not entirely convinced we have got it right with women Priests. At the moment there is an option for churches who disagree with the ordination of women to seek oversight from a bishop other than their own Bishop if their views are different. This was added to in a clause in the proposal yesterday, that churches would be able to seek leadership from an alternative Bishop if their Bishop happened to be a woman and they didn’t agree with that. Now I don’t want to split the church of England, but personally I do have a problem with the idea that someone who feels called by God to fulfil a certain role, this is a calling that has been recognised by others and by the church at large is then unable to fully complete that calling because a minority choose not to recognise what the majority have clearly seen. Yesterday it seems was a clear case of the minority managing to swing the vote.
For some the events of yesterday feel like a step backwards for the C of E, it was not, we did not take a much needed step forward, although I wonder if the measure was only half a step and one that could have been even more difficult to overcome in later years. I’m sure that one day we will see women as Bishops in the Church of England, and personally I believe that the sooner that days comes the better, not for ‘keeping up with society’ and ‘staying up to date’ but better for the church as a whole.
I pray for my colleagues at Synod who have worked so hard to try and make this work and yesterday were left feeling deflated. I pray for my female clergy friends (and those training or seeking Gods leading as to their future ministry) some of whom I’m sure would make great Bishops just as they do or will make great Priests. And I pray for the church of England as a whole that God will lead and guide us through this and that we will be able to move forward stronger.