Most of the world won’t of noticed, and won’t care. Most of the world is continuing to turn much as it did yesterday, and the day before and, no doubt, will tomorrow. But, for those of us who work for, worship in and give our time to the Church of England, today will bring a whole variety of feelings. Yesterday the General Synod failed to pass the legislation to make it possible for women to be Bishops. It easily got through the House of Bishops and the House of Clergy, but missed out on getting through the House of Laity by 6 votes, that’s right, 6 votes. Just a quick scroll through the status’ on my Facebook page will give an insight into people’s feelings on this. Let me share some:
Woke up in despair at synod.
Unbelievably disappointed 🙁
But then on the other hand:
Praise the Lord the mockery of Scripture was not passed today in the church of england.
I think my own Facebook status probably sums up my own feelings:
Now I know it’s geeky, but I sent a lot of yesterday with the debates of synod playing in the background, and I was sad before the vote even took place. 20 years we’ve been debating the ordination of women … 20 years! And still, I’m ashamed and embarrassed to say, people aren’t listening.
Let’s get something clear, the church is supposed to be different from the world. We are supposed to act differently, think differently, behave differently. We are supposed to live the way God calls us to live. As such, even if the world says that we should ordain women, if God says we shouldn’t, then we shouldn’t … it’s that simple. Even though I am in favour of female bishops, nothing annoys me more than sentences like, “In today’s day and age it’s just unbelievable that women can’t be bishops!” Listen to that sentence. It’s a sentence that buys into the world’s understanding, or at least the Western world’s understanding, that the key moment in history was the enlightenment, in Europe, in the 18th Century and since then we know more and more and are getting better and better. The fact that the last couple of hundred years so clearly speak against this does nothing to change this view. But, as Christians, we at least should realise that the key point in history happen 2000 years ago as the Son of God died on the cross and emerged from the tomb. We should not just be mindlessly buying into the world’s story, we buy into God’s story. Simple as!
One friend of mine described the people who are against the ordination of women as “stupid”! No they’re not! They’re brothers and sisters in Christ, who are trying their best to be faithful to God. Calling them “stupid”, or “sexist” is not helpful, and saying their “out of touch”, or “out of dates” just reinforces their view that we are listening to the world and not to God. Some respect for our brothers and sisters who don’t agree would help! Let me be quite clear, if the proposed legislation had not tried to cater for those who can’t agree, I would have spoken against it.
But those who think that female bishops makes a “mockery of scripture” also need to listen. Instead of closing your ears and thinking we who support female bishops are all “wishy-washy liberals” simply shows that you aren’t listening. I get the traditionalists, the catholics. If the main way we understand God’s authority is through tradition then we shouldn’t have female bishops. BUT the conservative evangelicals need to listen. You claim scripture is the authority, so instead of blindly insisting you have the scriptures right, be open to listening again, being challenged again. I defy anyone of a conservative evangelical understanding to read Philip Payne’s book, “Man and Woman, One in Christ” (see here) and not agree that scripture supports the ordination of women, and them being made bishops. Instead of righting us off as liberals, actually listen to the arguments!!
And another thing, let’s stop mixing issues. Agreeing that women can be bishops does not, in any way, dictate your view on male and female roles in marriage, or homosexuality, or anything else. Each of these needs to be thought through biblically, without mindlessly being assigned to a “conservative” or “liberal” camp! Instead of mindlessly accepting our traditions, we need to come in humility before the scriptures and listen to what God is telling us. We follow God, not our political groups.
But, none of this is what I actually intended to write! So please forgive the rant.
Yesterday I heard the results of the synods vote and then immediately had to go and run our teenage group, “One Way”. At it I got to sit down and talk to a bunch of teenagers about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They asked thoughtful questions and some seemed to be very moved. And it made me realise that THIS is what matters. The real work happens, not in bishop’s palaces and synod chambers, but in the everyday life of the local church, as men, and women, teach about Christ in word and action. This has not changed, and will not change. Today, all of us in the church, whether gutted with the result, or praising God for it, will get up, and get on with the real task of proclaiming Jesus as Lord. Let’s not forget that. Let’s never forget that. And, my wonderful, ordained, women friends, please never forget that you are part of this, and they can never change it!! The Kingdom work continues.
And as for the media’s suggestion that the Church has committed suicide (see here for an example), you are wrong. Some of the fastest growing churches in this country are against female leadership, the public aren’t as bothered as you think. But, much more importantly, the “Gates of Hell” cannot prevail against the Church of God. We have survived the church supporting and running the inquisition, the crusades and blind racism. Compared to this, a bad vote in the General synod, which is NOT the end of the fight, is nothing! This church survives, because the front line continues in its task of proclaiming Christ as Lord. The church has survived and sometimes even flourished, and will survive and flourish, until He comes again. We are the church, and the Gates of Hell, thanks to God, will not prevail against us!