I’ve had time to think about this one – since the vote on intorducing women bishops is now a couple of weeks behind us. I’ve read a load of articles, opinions and summaries of the events that led up to and followed the vote that by a very slim (some woud say undemocratic) margin threw out the measure that would have allowed the church to consecrate women as bishops.
The decision that it was alright in principle to have women bishops was made some time ago. This vote was about how to do it.
So here we are looking down a dark five year tunnel that may lead to the next vote. Five more years of women in the clergy ducking under the ‘stained glass ceiling’ as one newspaper columnist put it. Five years of the church appearing to be struck in a bygone age. Five years of negative headlines where those outside the church appear to know more about what we’re doing than we do.
These voices will distract and deter some people looking for their place in Christ’s kingdom. But if it hadn’t been this issue those voices would have found another one to put off the seekers from looking for the truth in Christianity.
Thankfully, the Church of England is not the only Christian denomination. Others have women in senior positions of leadership as do other parts of the Anglican communion. So it’s possible that another tradition would help those seekers to sign up to a local christian community.
For some though the long wait for the next round of debates and voting will be too long. They will never, in the duration of their working life, fully answer the calling they feel they have received. In the cold light of day there must be many callings that are never completely fulfilled, but in this case, to miss out because such a small number of people witheld their approval seems unjust. Rightly there were tears of disappointment at synod and probably some words of anger in private too.
So perhaps this would be a good time to call a moratorium on the appointment of any more bishops until this issue is resolved. The church has agonised for years over the number of diocese and bishops with their palaces, staff and retinue. Here is an opportunity to cut the numbers. Impose the same stained glass ceiling on all clergy until men and women can be treated equally. It may just focus a few minds in all three houses of Synod and who knows – speed things up a touch.