Why I’m sadden by Women Bishops – Part 1

Synod 1

I hardly know where to start.

Two years ago the General Synod voted against having women bishops, and you can read my reaction to that news here.  But on Monday the vote got through and the Church of England is now free to ordain a woman as a bishop.

So much of what I wrote two years ago I want to repeat, so here is one section of it:

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.

Two years ago I got into an argument with a friend for celebrating when the vote was denied.  I felt that to celebrate when so many were hurt by the decision was uncaring and, frankly, unChristian.  Now I’m ashamed to say that many celebrated when the vote passed, with drinks and cheers and general merriment – despite the fact many of our brothers and sisters will be deeply hurt and worried.  I know many wonderful Christian people, with a heart for Jesus and his Kingdom, who will now feel lost, confused and rejected by the vote – do you really want to be those who party at this?

Others went further and proclaimed that:

“Those who disagree [with women bishop’s] should put up or get out”

These people are not arguing that Christ didn’t raise from the dead – apparently these people are welcome in the House of Bishops! (they shouldn’t be, but they apparently are!). They are not arguing that Jesus was just a good man – again apparently these people are still welcome in church leadership (and again, they shouldn’t be!).  No, they are arguing that texts such as 1 Timothy 2:11-14 say women can’t lead in the church and that they, as Christians, must follow God rather than culture.  Surely you can’t really believe that people who want to put God first, rather than cultural pressures, should be thrown out of the church?  Can you?  What about Paul’s instructions in Romans 14?

Accept those whose faith is weak, without quarrelling over disputable matters … Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
Romans 14:1, 19

Now I actually believe the Bible is completely in support of women bishops.  I can’t include those arguments here as it would be too long.  So I’ve written a part 2 to this post which gives a brief argument why I think the Bible supports women in church leadership, on every level.  (see here).

Of course, all of this isn’t helped by the media and the government, who insist on making out that the Church should “Get with the programme” – some of us don’t care about the programme, we just want to do what God says is right.  Or insist that there are those liberals on one side (who want the church to be relevant and modern) and those who hold to the Bible and tradition on the other side.  EXCUSE ME!  Some of us are doing this BECAUSE we hold to the Bible!  No wonder many Conservatives are nervous, with rhetoric like this going round … I’m actually nervous too.

But I can’t let the bad reporting in the media, or the threats of interference from the government stop me from support what I believe God says is right.  (and for the record, if the government had tried to force the vote through I would have called for disestablishment – God rules this church, not a secular government!).

Now, for God’s sake (And I mean that literally) can we start loving and caring for each other, stop arguing and get on with proclaiming the Jesus who died and rose again?  Please?


For Part 2, a brief biblical argument for women bishops, see here

About David

I'm the curate at St. Anne's Church, in the parish of Shevington, Standish Lower Ground and Crooke. I'm married to Carole and have two beautiful daughters called Sarah and Anabel
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5 Responses to Why I’m sadden by Women Bishops – Part 1

  1. Thank you for this – written from the heart and so carefully capturing the feelings of many of us – who believe that yes, the scriptures have been honoured in the move to allow women in the episcopate but that if it’s at the cost of the greatest command of all being compromised, then we really need to think very long and hard about our call from God.

  2. Frances Scott Little Blue Hut says:

    David- Frances Denny-Scott here. I am gladdened by the vote…based on the most important world changeing event in History- Jesus’ telling us to love one another as he loved us and to love God.
    The Bible (which particular version we chose I am not sure) is made up of inspired words of followers of Jesus and followers of followers of Jesus.
    Women were amoung his original group. They will have converted men to Christianity, so would those men then have had the right to be leaders within the Church and to be above those women who brought them the Good News? Those women who were killed in the arenas of the Roman Empire next to men. Who were burned at the stake next to men- inspiring onlookers as they died in faith?
    Some of these original women followers’ “testaments” were not chosen to be part of the New Testament when the present Bible was put together- were they not inspired by God and worthy of inspiring us with their words and experiences?.
    We see the Bible as our inspired guide and as the Word of God…
    I think that our flexibility in accepting the present day Bible needs to suitably match our acceptance of God’s ongoing inspiration in our decisions and our actions in Loving one another and in finding the best way to spread Jesus’ message to all- as he instructed those original men and women to do.
    Halleluja- as a man I know would have shouted with joy!

    • David says:

      Hi Frances, hope you’re well. Forgive me, but I’m not quite sure what your point is. As I make quite clear, I am very, very much in favour of female bishops, and as the second section of this post makes clear, I believe the Bible is fully in favour too. I agree women we’re very active, including in leadership, in the early church. Your history of the Bible is unfortunately flawed. The other ‘Gospels’ we’re not rejected because they were written by women, but because they were written a great deal of time after the time of Jesus. I assume you are referring to ‘The Gospel of Mary’ which was a Gnostic text written in the late second century. You’re right that only men wrote the bible, but that is hardly surprising in a culture where women were almost completely uneducated! No black people wrote the Bible, that doesn’t prove the early church were racist! Anyway, as I say I support female bishop, and I believe the bible does too. Love to the family.

  3. Suzan says:

    I hear all that your saying David but it is still very painful for women whose ministry, calling and out working of that isn’t recognised because of their gender. It’s easy to claim that there should be tolerance for those who are opposed when you have never experienced that opposition yourself. I haven’t personally experienced someone refusing my ministry because I’m a woman but know many faithful Godly women who have and as much as you say we shouldn’t be swayed by what the world says. Throughout all of this the secular world has looked on in total bemusement and it has widened the gap between the church and the communities in which we seek to faithfully serve and proclaim the gospel. Which makes me very sad 🙁

    • David says:

      Hi Suzan, I understand your pain. That is exactly why I criticized my friend two years ago. People were genuinely hurt, and he shouldn’t have been celebrating that. But remember that there are now many who feel their calling and their understanding is not welcome in the church – because of the vote for women bishops! Should the vote have been past? ABSOLUTELY YES. But now it is our turn to (I hate this phrase, but it has a kind of sick ironic humour to it here) ‘be the bigger man’. I react with love and compassion. I know that’s hard. I know that is like crying ‘father forgive them’ to those who have hurt you. I know that is like picking up a cross of execution. All I can say is … I believe that is the Christian way.

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