Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The defeat of the Measure: preliminary reflections

OK, following the defeat of the draft Measure to introduce women bishops, here are some (very) preliminary thoughts on my part.
First, if you prayed about the outcome, and if you believe in the sovereignty of God, I hope you have at least taken a moment to breathe a humble ‘Thy will be done’. Had it gone the other way, that is the only view I think Traditionalists could properly have taken.
Our challenge in this regard is not to fathom out why we have been either delighted or disappointed but to ask what God is saying in this. (And no, the sovereign God is not saying what a bunch of wotsits the people are whose vote went the ‘wrong’ way and if He’d had His way things would have been very different.)
One thing is very clear — the Church of England has given enormous amounts of time and energy to this subject. So if, after all that effort and prayer as well, we come down to a simplistic ‘triumph of good/evil over evil/good’ view of the current situation, then we need to go away and do some serious theological reflection of our own about the nature of God.
Secondly, my own personal feelings, for what they’re worth, are of being rather flat. Not least this is because I rather agree with those who are saying we have made ourselves look ridiculous. Indeed we have. But we have no one to blame but ourselves.
Thirdly, therefore, before anything else happens I think we need a period of repentance. Over the past few years, it has become clear that the Church was being called on to deliver an outcome that would satisfy two opposing points of view — but opposing views on what is supposed to be a ‘second order’, albeit deeply significant, issue.
At the 1998 Lambeth Conference, it was officially declared that whether one was for or against the ordination and consecration of women, one could be a loyal Anglican. More recently, I have heard repeated assurances that everyone was supposed to be allowed to ‘flourish’ under the new arrangements. And yet despite all the time available, and all the energy expended, those for whom these arrangements would be most difficult did not finally feel that they would be encouraged to flourish, and nor did they feel that they could really trust those who would have the most influence over their flourishing.
That is a tragic indictment of the Church.
And fourthly, I think it will be clear in retrospect that the vote was finally lost not today but in July. Frankly, with the original Clause 5(1)c on the table, I was in two minds as to whether this was enough. And my own ‘Don’t know’ would undoubtedly have translated into enough votes in General Synod at the time to push the Measure through.
It surely has to be recognized that the power to produce a formula for compromise has, for some considerable time, rested largely with those who had supported the introduction of women bishops. Where simple majorities have counted, they have had the controlling hand. But this must therefore suggest that had they been willing to concede just a little more, then we would not be where we are today.
And if their response is, “But that would have been a step too far,” then I would simply ask whether where we are now is where they would rather be.
So what of the future?
The worst case scenario, in my view, is what I think some are already desiring on the majority side — go away, regroup, come back and win. Yet is God really saying, “If only you’d got a few more votes you could have wiped the floor with the opposition?”
The smart move, I suggest, would be rather to recognize the mistake of July, to ask Traditionalists what would actually satisfy them, to hammer out a deal both parties can accept and then, but only then, to bring it back to Synod at the earliest opportunity.
I find myself asking what could be wrong with that. Unfortunately, I suspect there will be those out there only too willing to tell me.
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  1. "it has become clear that the Church was being called on to deliver an outcome that would satisfy two opposing points of view"

    My preliminary take on the outcome of today's vote is the opposite. For years people have been trying to find a compromise between black and white on this issue. But all their best attempts have failed. So perhaps what God is telling us is that this is not the way ahead. That is why I now agree with Sam Norton's call Please can we now do women bishops the right way?

  2. Well, Peter, dare I say you were the one who was calling the foregone conclusion of Synod the 'mind of the church'? Yet it turns out the church's mind is not as expected.

    The silly suggestion would be that those who lost leave (with a generous settlement) and form their own denomination.

    Or we could pause, repent and reflect - my actual suggestion.

  3. Grace people, grace.... Please can we remember to be gracious towards each other in both the tone and content or our comments...?

    Until we remember grace, we won't be able to move on from here, as we will simply continue to hurt each other - and that glorifies no one, least of all Christ.

  4. John, I didn't say anything was a foregone conclusion, only that it was what I expected, as did many others. But I would remind you that the C of E has already accepted the principle of women bishops, just not the messy compromise on offer today, and that even today a huge majority of those voting were in favour.

    Rather than get into another battle here, and risk it becoming less than gracious, I have posted my thoughts at Restoring the Church of England to Sanity.

  5. Sit back and dream a little bit. Dream of a church without women bishops - and without men bishops either. Lovely, isn't it?

  6. Not a spectacular victory for opponents of the Women Bishop's Measure - but a victory nonetheless for which I thank God for. A shock for some who thought it would breeze through. Did I detect an air of arrogance or complacency in the general mood of that camp? But certainly a call to listen to the (minority) opposition whilst they remain in the CofE - which I hope they will do for the benefit of the whole.

    I'm a bit fed up with the media portrayal (aka BBC) that supporting the measure was the only way for the church to become relevant in today's society. Why not focus on the positives that those who objected believe in - that men and women have been wonderfully created to have complementary roles in our societies, and families! And that God's wisdom in the Bible might just be worth heeding!

  7. When Ireland voted against the Lisbon Treaty in 2008, some reassurances were given by the EU and another referendum was called for the following year, which passed. Something similar happened with Denmark in the 1990's. France and Holland voted against the European Constitution in 2005, so the EU renamed it a Treaty. This approach by the EU is often characterised as "You have voted the wrong way. Now go back and vote again, until you have got it right".

    Looks like the (more or less unelected) bishops have learnt lessons from the (slightly less unelected)European Commissioners.

    This morning the bishops are in emergency session. John Sentamu is being reported as saying "I hope I will be back some day to tell you what are the processes we are putting in motion to make sure women become bishops."

    There is a dearth of democracy in the EU or the C of E, and it looks like the bishops will be adopting EU methods to get their way.

    A joke organisation, no, sorry, two joke organisations.


  8. Well said John, well, mostly. But I think the vote was lost at the GS elections in 2010, not more recently. I doubt whether the last 2 years of reflection and argument have persuaded anyone, or more than a very few anyway. But as you say, reflection needed.

  9. Looking in from the outside (but not very far outside), a few of thoughts about yesterday;

    1st, the logic leading up to the vote was about the mind of the Church, once it's decided, that's it, you lot have to live with it. So, does that mean it's decided now & can be left alone? A point I've often made is that change is only acceptable in 1 direction, so this isn't the last we've heard about it. John's point is right, the wise choice is to do it properly, rather than hammer at it. If the group of 6 come back with something too soon, it would make a mockery of bothering to vote at all.

    2nd, When everyone assumed this would go through, the comments to opponents were, "Yes there's enough provision, if you don't like it leave". So, do they now feel they should leave such an unjust denomination?

    3rd thought- John commented that this was lost in July. Arguably it was lost much earlier. When TEA was on the table everyone that I knew was in favour, everyone got what they wanted. Then all of a sudden it wasn't. At that point those in against women bishops started to worry and those in favour, but in favour of understanding where people are from, not compromising their conscience etc. started getting fed up with the all or nothing approach, but would have probably voted yes in July to get it over & done with. Pro-Women bishop people have said to me, WATCH etc. are going to overstretch & annoy lots of people.

    WATCH etc. seemed to either not understand or care why people opposed, thinking it was just old fashioned sexism. Actually many against the change are young, well educated & women. The reasons against isn't like changing the colour of the walls, or introducing bad hymns. It's a matter of people feeling that submission to a woman bishop would be forcing them to go against God's will (rightly or wrongly understood)... at best! At worst, that as Scripturally women can't be bishops that the person appointed is there in name only, but in the 'dissenter's' mind the position remains vacant.

    Darren Moore

    (John's illustration about the Young Ones all voting for Neil to do the washing up, nearly works. But Actually, they did have a bigger majority & stronger mandate, 3/4 against 2/3. So would be fairer)

    1. On your second point, Darren, some do. Maggi Dawn has tweeted: "So I guess I won't be coming home any time soon then. I Can't work in a Church that won't treat women as equal human beings. #synod #exile". The main thing stopping me from leaving is that I have already left - but if not, I would probably wait to give Sam Norton's idea a chance.

    2. Well, let's see.
      I doubt it & in some ways it would be sad, but it would be consistent. It's a big change. If you want a big change...

  10. It seems to me that there is only one solution for the C of E, and that is to have a three way split. The Liberals, the Anglo-Catholics and the Evangelicals should just agree to go their own way. This has be done in America and many other privinces of the Anglican Communion.

    No doubt people could devote much of their time and energy into thinking of suitable acronyms for the new organisations. Maybe the following:

    LCofE Liberal church of England,
    ACCofE Anglo Catholic Church of England and
    ECofE Evangelical Church of England.

  11. Copies to: Rt Revs Williams & Welby
    National Newspapers

    Dear Right Reverend Sirs, 21st November 2012

    I have to say that, frankly, I am shocked by your response to the recent vote result in Synod. Your negative responses to the result of the vote regarding whether the Church of England might ‘allow’ women to become Bishops are utterly out of keeping with Christian principles, and out of keeping with what Scripture itself teaches us about the Sovereignty of God.

    It seems to me that sadly, and just as so many politicians of today do when dealing with secular votes they dislike, you only think that the Holy Spirit has spoken when he agrees with you, and thus you discount this result and are already seeking ways to get round it. Might I conjecture that in fact the Holy Spirit frequently speaks in ways that almost none of us will find comfortable, and we should accept the result of His involvement, like it or not, and get on with what He has done for us.

    I was very concerned to hear, after the vote, that your concern was for the ‘image’ of the church in the eyes of the world. Jesus Christ has already told us what the ‘image’ of the church will be in the eyes of non-Christians. They will hate us. They will hate us for standing by God’s Word and following His precepts, especially when that means our words, actions and lives therefore run contrary to what the world wants. It is not the business of the church (or any part of it) to seek to mollify the world and to seek to fit in with the world’s views. Neither is it any part of the churches mission to make itself ‘welcoming’ by turning from what God has taught us. If you had read the comments from individuals made on the BBC website (for instance) you would have noticed most of them come from people who deny God’s existence, and who call us weirdoes and lunatics for believing in Him. It doesn’t matter what WE do. Until the Holy Spirit works in their hearts they will never accept God’s teachings – we cannot make the offence of the Gospel any less. Only God will do that. We can stand firm on God’s truths as revealed exclusively in the Bible.

    Lastly, I would challenge you with God’s Word. There it says, plain as day:

    “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

    Do you not believe this? Have you no faith in God? Whatever your belief about the outcome of the vote, and whichever way it had gone, this truth remains God’s truth. Why, instead of accepting that God is working in a different way to the one you wanted, do you publicly talk of disaster and crisis for the Church of England? Why do you not point people to God’s sovereign power, and to the fact that:

    “…my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.”
    Isaiah 55:8

    No, the unbelieving world might not like that, but you are not called to be friends with the world, or to seek friendship with the world. You are called to proclaim God’s truths to the world that it might be transformed and changed by the power of His Word. When will you start doing this?

    I pray that God’s blessings might come upon you,
    Yours truly,

    Rt. Rev. Dominic Stockford

    1. Of course, Bishop Stockford, you had already composed your response if the vote had gone the other way: "We accept that this result shows the will of God, and so we withdraw our objections to women bishops and will gladly and fully accept the authority of any who might be appointed over us."

      So your idea of the sovereignty of God is that everything that happens is God's will? Even the worst evils, like the Holocaust? That view does not come from the Bible, but perhaps from the Qur'an.

    2. Dominic

      My thoughts completely.

      The reaction of Welby and Williams make you wonder if they have read the Bible at all.

      Well OK we know that Williams does not take the Bible at all seriously. But Welby to come across as a better dressed Williams clone? I am sad because I expected something better.

      Something scriptural, is that too much to ask?


    3. Peter, I had not a reply composed should the vote have been 'lost' as I would see it. Neither was this reply pre-written. My position is that expressed by John, when he says: "First, if you prayed about the outcome, and if you believe in the sovereignty of God, I hope you have at least taken a moment to breathe a humble ‘Thy will be done’. Had it gone the other way, that is the only view I think Traditionalists could properly have taken."

      Lastly, as I did with my letter, I would challenge you with God’s Word. There it says, plain as day:

      “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

      Whatever happens is God's working for good for them that love God. ALL THINGS. Do you not believe the Bible when it says this?

    4. Dominic, I consider the NIV rendering of that verse exegetically preferable: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him ..." But that doesn't mean that everything that happens is good, even if people have prayed about it. So it doesn't mean that every decision which at least one Christian prayed about is correct. I intended to object to how John had put this in the post - but he did disavow a simple good/evil characterisation. Rather, the verse means that whether good or evil happens God is at work in it, to fulfil the purpose to which he has called his people. And I can accept yesterday's decision on that basis.

      I think one thing is clear, that the kind of compromise which was in this measure is dead. I hope the powers that be will not now start tinkering with the measure, in any direction, in the hope of gaining a few more votes for it from one side without losing too many from the other.

      But I don't think we can take this narrow defeat on detailed procedures, when the principle of women bishops has already been accepted, as God's final guidance against women bishops. Rather, God is most likely telling us to use a quite different approach. That is why I am in effect resurrecting the third province proposal, popular a few years ago, which comes to almost the same thing as Sam Norton's proposal.

  12. Has anyone yet noted that in a sense, the seeds of this defeat lie squarely in the victory of 20 years ago?

    This is because the first one managed to squeak through only because proponents cynically included an explicit ban on women becoming bishops, in order to buy off juuuust enough votes to heave over the finishing line.

    Thus it is they themselves who established the necessity for a later vote on WBs. How sick they must be feeling now.


    1. Dan,
      You have put your finger on exactly what is wrong with the way the C of E works. For years the votes in Synod were against women priests so they just kept on trying until in 1992, with its cynical "assurance" of "Nothing in this measure refers to women bishops" they finally pushed it through. No wonder Anglican traditionalists don't trust the present assurances about parishes wishes being "respected" I hope they don't fall for any more of it.

    2. Well said James. A further point is that in 1992, not only were certain doubters finally duped into voting for it by the deceit about no WBs, but it means that everyone who back then was pro-WB (in other words virtually everyone pro the substantive issue of the day) voted for something they absolutely disagreed with in order to get something they wanted. Where's the morality in that? Yet these same people are now claiming the CoE lost the "moral high ground" last night!!

      So as I said, their dark arts 20 years ago well and truly set them up for last night's crash, and in this sense, they richly deserved it and have no right to cry a single tear - unless in bitter recollection of their own self-defeating folly.


  13. If the statistics I have seen are correct, the measure was supported by 90$ of bishops, 77% of clergy, and 64% of laity.

    So it's a matter of fact that the majority of synod was in favour of the measure. Amongst clergy and bishops, who presumably are more familiar with the theological arguments in favour of equality, the majority is substantial.

    All I can say is that the group that John represents is in the minority, both in the CofE generally and amongst evangelicals.

    1. Ian

      Conforming to the world is such a wonderful thing. People in power think that you are wonderful and you get invited to all the best functions and sit on all the best committees.

      That is what the mean when they say that they are now irrelevant. Meaning not such a warm welcome at dinner parties etc. Goodness it might mean that you have to defend yourself as a Christian, rather than it being seen as your quaint but irrelevant hobby.

      Don’t worry too much. They will still get to go. Just blame the “other” Christians for getting in the way of “progress”.

      God? What has he got to do with anything? This is a matter of equality. Far more important than God.


    2. Ian, you are of course stating the truth (although on major decisions the Synod rule of 2/3 majorities means that 'minorities' are actually allowed to 'outvote' majorities).

      However, my point is this - given that compromise was in the gift of the (simple) majority for so long, and yet compromises were voted down (eg the one put forward by the Archbishops' themselves) how come the system failed to deliver?

    3. Ian,

      You are making what appears to be a common mistake. You are right to say that John Richardson style people are in a minority among the C of E & Evangelicals... in the C of E. But you have to add, in the C of E.

      Among Evangelicals outside of the C of E, it's pretty much a no brainer. & through time. Could you imagine having these conversations with Cranmer, Ryle, Lightfoot?

      It is a common C of E (note C of E, not Anglican generally), to view themselves as the only Christians in the world. It's such an irony that the traditionalist Evangelical Anglicans usually have good close links with non-Anglicans, whilst others in the C of E go on about how narrow they are, with no understanding of who else is out there. (apart from other compromised dying denominations).

      Also, as I've said before, much of what passes for Evangelical in the C of E, may be from people who started that way, but anything that meaningfully describes it has gone. Much like calling me thin, there was a time... but something has changed.

    4. "Among Evangelicals outside of the C of E, it's pretty much a no brainer."

      Darren, I seriously doubt your claim that the majority of Evangelicals worldwide (let's stick to today, not the past) are "John Richardson style people" (although that's a nice compliment for John) or even opponents of women's ordination. I accept that here in the USA there are still very many evangelicals opposed to women pastors, but there is also a growing acceptance of woman's ministry in all except the more fundamentalist camps. Of course you would be correct if you define "evangelical" to include opposition to women's ministry. But if you use generally accepted definitions you might find your "no brainer" majority slim or non-existent.

    5. Ian, worth nothing that the houses of bishops and clergy being well and truly rigged, only the house of laity truly represented the grassroots CoE - and hence its low support for the measure is supremely significant.

      Several times John has referred to the scandalous underrepresentation of traditionalists in the HoB, in flat contradiction of the Act of Synod's assurances about non-discrimination in preferment. And the HoC since 1994 has automatically and increasingly been liberal biased by the simple fact that while it admits liberal and conservative men, among women only the more liberal (on this issue) are allowed, by definition. Whereas anyone, woman or man, liberal or conservative, may stand for the HoL, and the spread there much more closely mirrors actual pew opinion.


    6. Ian
      You can't ignore what Christians have believed, ESPECIALLY if you're Anglican. Don't you say in the creed that you "beleive in one holy catholic & apostolic church"? Don't you say in communion, "with angels, archangels & all the company of heaven" - is that a bit of Bruce Forsythe, nice to see you... or does it signify something?

      Of course, Americans are really known for being better than English for not being aware that there is a rest of the world out there. But I'm quite familier with the American scene. PCA, OPC, REC, CREC, Southern Baptists, may get dubbed, "Fundamentalists", but that's just a way of not having to think about what they say. A recent study on American Christianity (can't remember who - could find out), said that repeatedly in American history the churches that fair best long term aren't those who follow the culture, but those who resist it. So look at denominations there with a future.

      Now, short term, at least, we have to be careful with the number game. But a BIG arguement FOR women bishops etc. is to get us in line with society so we're credible. How has that faired for the denominations that have gone down that sort of line, C of E, CofS, URC, Methodists. Not showing massive signs of growth. Actually we're talking about financial collapse in our life time. Compare that with conservative groupings, many are quite small to start with, although not all. But they are at worst, holding the line, but mostly growing, some very quickly.

      The USA scene (outside of TEC) is just like pre-war England. There for as traditions die, the culture becomes more secular, so we'll see whole denominations go to the wall. The ones that will survive, there & here are the ones that resist culture, not go with it.

      mmm, sounds a bit Revelation 14-18ish to me. Resist false ideas and the ease of Babylon.

    7. Darren, were you in fact replying to me, not Ian, when you wrote about the American scene. If so, you slur on Americans was misplaced, as I am British but living in America. I can assure you that, in addition to the mainstream denominations some of which are declining, there are here quite a number of large and growing non-denominational churches which have no problem with women in leadership. Have you heard of Joyce Meyer?

      Yes, indeed there is "one holy catholic & apostolic church". As Anglicans we cannot believe that means one global hierarchical body, or we would all have to swim the Tiber. But we believe there is a spiritual unity with all Christian believers. For you, does that include women in positions of authority in churches, and their congregations? Or do you consider such groups irredeemably heretical? If so, you can hardly remain within the Anglican Communion.

    8. Sorry, probably got you muddled up!

      I'm not in the Anglican communion, any more.

      I think Christians need a nuanced view of visible/invisible church. The church - visible is a significant thing. It's not really our place to judge who is or is not a "Christian", but we can say some things about catholicity can't we. For e.g. if the Reformers were right that a True Church is one where the Word is preached truly, the sacraments administered duly and church discipline is practised, then some groups STRICTLY speaking are not churches, but that is making no judgement on them being real Christians. Just real Christians meeting for fellowship in a group that isn't a church, or a defective one in some way (think Salvation Army - no sacraments, at best something is missing).

      But catholicity means not accepting all practices & people. Far from it. Rather it means what was accepted by all at all times in all places. The point of the Reformation was that the Roman Church had non-catholic, i.e. novel practices & beliefs.

      Think through the alternative. You few now have got it right, ALL other Christians for 2,000 years, some of the greatest minds, were all blinkered about this. Even though they stuck 2 fingers up to their culture in many ways and died for their faith they were not as enlightened as those today.

      The point I was making is Evangelical world (proper) this is very much a main stream view. I know - that's where I live nowadays.

      By now, we've move a long way from the point. But, it does come back to this. There are very sound Evangelicals who believe in the ordination of women. Granted. Believing in ordination of women doesn't mean you hold to a host of heretical beliefs. But have to EVER met someone who is pro-gay marriage/ordination/practice, anti-penal substitution etc. etc. who also does not hold to ordination of women? Every cooky idea out there goes hand in hand with it.

      (I know it's a problem with Internet dialogue, but we have to watch putting words in people's mouth. Is saying someone is wrong saying that THEY are a heretic? I don't think I said that. Also, slurring Americans? Americans I know would say to that - you've got my number. This is part of the problem with this debate. pro-Women-Bishops think in binary. "If you disagree you are saying we are heretics" No, wrong, but not heretics... you might be, heretics always seem to think that too, but we're just saying your wrong & that it isn't indifferent. Similarly I've basically been accused of not being a Christian for not going with it. At that point the only thing to say is, grow up (to them not necessarily you))

    9. Joyce Meyer teaches a Prosperity Gospel. She's a 'Word of Faith' preacher. She's probably not the best example of successful orthodox female leadership to offer. Rather the opposite.

    10. Darren, there is probably no church body today which accepts only "what was accepted by all at all times in all places". Certainly no evangelical group, as all evangelicals have practices which were more or less novel at the Reformation. Moreover, there is no such thing as "what was accepted by all at all times in all places", as there has always been diversity in the church, right back to New Testament times.

      I am not saying anything like "You few now have got it right, ALL other Christians for 2,000 years, some of the greatest minds, were all blinkered about this." For one thing, by no means "ALL", as there have been supporters of women in church leadership on and off throughout the centuries, many of whom stood up for this view despite being persecuted for it. And of course there have been huge numbers of good Christians who have not expressed any opinion on the issue but have simply accepted the status quo.

      More importantly, I am by no means suggesting that those opposing women bishops are heretical or even "blinkered", just that their view is in a small minority in the Church of England. That minority has been offered generous arrangements to remain within the C of E, and has rejected them. Now I think they should be offered generous arrangements to leave. As one who has left, would you disagree?

      Of course if you define as one of the marks of a true church that it does not have women bishops, then no true churches have women bishops! And if you define "Evangelical world (proper)" as where you live nowadays, and exclude the world of people like Joyce Meyer as well as of many evangelical denominations who have women in leadership, then you can find a majority against women in leadership. But surely that is at most a small part of the issue.

      Carl, my point about Joyce Meyer is that she is a Christian with many followers who accepts women in leadership, and is one. I make no comment on her doctrine, except to suggest that it is a lot less unorthodox than that of many in the Church of England.

    11. "their view is in a small minority in the Church of England"

      No Peter, it's a substantial minority of around a quarter as far as we can make out. This by the way is also demonstrated by the fact that in two dioceses it is actually the majority (at least on their synods) - something that couldn't possibly happen if the national proportion were indeed tiny. It would be interesting to know in how many dioceses the pro-WB party is a two-thirds majority. I'll try to do some research....

      More to the point, the CoE is a small minority in the worldwide Church.

      As for whether the arrangements were generous, how are we to judge? Aren't the most appropriate judges precisely those at whom those arrangements were aimed, who will be most affected by them? And on Tuesday they (and some pro-WB people) judged that they weren't generous enough.

      Interesting also that in 1992 opponents were offered arrangements BOTH to leave AND to stay. Were there any of the first kind this time round? Perhaps there should have been - or maybe the church is too bankrupt these days for that.


    12. Actually Carl's point about orthodoxy is EXACTLY the point (I know the name, but very little else). Also, what kind of ministry? My wife listens to Beth Moore stuff (not 100% with all of it), that's rather different to being an Elder/Bishop - as she would say herself. We're not anti women in ministry!

      By "all people, all places, all times" - that doesn't mean all the same in every area.

      Non-conformists have different practices. Even within my (very small... does that make it wrong?) corner, of Reformed/Presbyterian, Dutch & Celtic models look different, liturgical styles etc. That's before we chuck in different continents & time. Catholic has never meant, all doing identical things. & Culture comes into it. But, it does mean certain doctrines always held & certain practices.

      Could you name the controversy in the early church where women were stopped from leading churches? Could you name one orthodox church leader from the 1st 5 hundred years. OK, let's be fair, up to the reformation (who didn't have ideas ruled out by the catholic creeds). Can you think of 1 Reformer?

      Now, if you believe that the Trinity got in by majority vote, then yeah, let's have women bishops & add another person to God while we're at it, have a few extra sacraments, whatever. We can keep evolving our doctrine & practice. The problem for you will be when majority vote evolves the church away from you.

      Generous offer. You must be joking right? There were good offers on the table. One thinks of TEA & be eroded bit by bit. I've heard now a number of pro-women bishops saying this had to fail, WATCH etc. over stretched & people are fed up with them. The question is WHY did people not find it acceptable, when they found others acceptable. WHY didn't WATCH find those ones OK. They are the right questions.

      Should the Richardson types leave? Not necessarily. There are big questions involved in just leaving a congregation. Also, when the bills come in, you really don't want Evangelicals to leave. I used to be on a Diocesan Synod. Take 3 big Evangelical Churches out, the whole thing would be on its knees.

    13. Well, Dan, what is "small" is relative, but almost nowhere else would any allowance be made for a minority of around a quarter. And don't forget that that quarter includes people opposed to the measure because the arrangements were considered too generous, as well as the pro-WB people you mention who judged them not generous enough. I am thinking more of the tiny minority of congregations which have passed the resolutions putting them under the authority of "flying bishops".

      Yes, the C of E is a small minority in the worldwide church. But is the majority of that worldwide church against women in leadership? It might depend who you ask. Even in the RC church, many lay people and probably quite a lot of priests in private support women priests, but don't speak out as they are likely to be excommunicated if they do, as Fr. Roy Bourgeois has just found out.

    14. Sorry, last comment on this... because it's way off track. It's become a long thing since I just made a throw away, "not most Evangelicals at all".

      There is an uncomfortable thing for Evangelicals to deal with. Whilst there may be currently thriving Evangelical churches lead by women, in movements that only recently have come round to the idea, the sad lesson from history is that once a denomination embraces that move, other things happen and they don't stay Evangelical for long. In the Reformed/Presbyterian camp, places around the world that have made that move may keep a structure, but abandon (given enough time) everything they started with.

      Why, is another question. A (female) friend said yesterday, "because once you ditch one bit of the Bible, you ditch the rest". There may be some truth there. But I think it's more sophisticated, to do with how there becomes a doctrinal joining the dots onto ontology, christology, trinity, salvation/atonement & authority (which all relate to each other). Hence, someone can be quite sound, but support women bishops, but give it a bit of time... then as CS Lewis put it, you have another religion.

      That's me, you are now safe... no more yes buts, say what you like...

    15. Darren, have you actually researched women leaders in the early church? Or are you just making assumptions?

      "Could you name the controversy in the early church where women were stopped from leading churches?"

      I can give you the name and the date of the Pope who stopped what had become a widespread practice in certain areas: Gelasius I in 494 (source).

      "Could you name one orthodox church leader from the 1st 5 hundred years. OK, let's be fair, up to the reformation (who didn't have ideas ruled out by the catholic creeds)."

      How about Theodora Episcopa, woman bishop? OK, we don't know that she was orthodox, but we have no evidence that she was not. If you are not sure about her, there are several more names in the source I linked to above. Then there were the Montanist prophets Priscilla and Maximilla, whose orthodoxy was questioned but never disproved. I guess again you can claim that all of these were unorthodox by defining orthodoxy as being against women in church leadership.

      "Can you think of 1 Reformer?"

      I had to look them up, but what do you know about Elisabeth Dirks, Lijsken Dirks, Margarette Pruess, Veronika Gross, Anna Salminger, Ruth Kunstel, Ruth Hagen, Argula von Grumbach, and Goetken Gerrits?

    16. Peter,
      Gelasius, as I recall had some other pretty strange ideas. Theodora again, isn't that like Pope Joan? Montanists... ummm, are they orthodox... that was kind of my point. Priscilla etc... ummm, are you listening? All along we're saying women have a vital place in the life of the church. Ironically, by promoting the current changes undermines women & the life of the church by saying women have to be like men & to be ordained makes you more important than lay & all we do in church is Sunday morning with communion. Actually women have a very distinct place getting along side people & speaking God's word to them, often prophetically. Has anyone, ever denied that? All we're saying is "in this specific & narrow role".

      As for the list of others... no & it's interesting that I haven't. BUT, so what? I could add to the list Hannah Moore, or contempories to us, Beth Moore, Kirsten Birkett (teaches at Oak Hill), Sharon James, women who are great writers & teachers... but take a trad line. NOBODY has ever said women have nothing to offer in this way.

      So, my absolutly final pennies worth. Don't make straw men & make "us" say something other than the very specific thing we're saying. That would be like us saying "you lot just don't read the Bible" - that would be a straw man too. & really, using history that way all sounds very Da Vinci code, sort of misses the point & makes me think, clutching & straws.

    17. Darren, I was only answering your questions. Perhaps they were meant to be rhetorical, to claim that women had not made a significant contribution in the past. As I seem to have debunked that claim, I am glad that you are backtracking from it.

      I restricted myself to 16th century women Reformers, but I could have found a lot more women if I had looked at the 18th and 19th centuries - see this summary, starting with the Countess of Huntingdon. There is ancient inscriptional evidence for Bishop Theodora. As for Gelasius, I can only agree that he had pretty strange ideas, such as that women must not serve at the altar.

  14. The worst case scenario, in my view, is what I think some are already desiring on the majority side — go away, regroup, come back and win.

    You don't have to spend too much time surveying the reaction to this vote to recognize the type of reflection being undertaken. This vote has been labeled an illegitimate result engineered by an illegitimate faction using an illegitimate manipulation of process. The pressuposition in play is that there was only one possible legitimate outcome. Traditionalists were supposed to play the part of the 'vanquished' in order to display the glory of the 'victors.' None of this predisposes the proponents of WO to reflect upon the objections of the traditionalists. The perceived illegitimacy of the outcome will in fact undermine any desire to accommodate those objections. Now words like 'bigot' and 'misogynist' and 'medieval' will flow free.

    So what is going to happen is the exact 'worst case' scenario mentioned above. The majority will exercise its considerable power to make sure it wins the next time. This was not a defeat in their eyes. This was a hi-jacking. This was theft. Will the government intervene? Will the process be changed? Will the rules of representation be changed? Uncertainty clouds the vision. I do know that power will be applied to prevent the 'illegitimate faction' from achieving this result again.


  15. I got an email from the Evangelical Alliance earlier. It said that when they surveyed evangelical Christians in 2010, 71% of them said that women should be eligible for all roles in the church. Not sure what more I can say... please don't insult the faith of the 71% by saying that they're not really evangelicals.

    1. That, Ian, might depend on a series of further questions we might put to them. It's notorious that the body calling itself evangelical has gotten ever wishier-washier over the last three decades or so. I'm afraid that WO is just the tip of the iceberg.


  16. Ian

    You just don't get it....

    These things are not about any democracy thing.

    After an attack on London by Muslims 71% might say we should nuke a city in the Arab world just to get even.

    71% in favour does not make it right with God

    (What percentage of the chosen people were making an idol when Moses was talking to God?)



    1. One of the questions I want to ask is, "Who were the 2 Bishops who abstained?" After all the debate could they still not make up their minds?


    2. And neither does 29% against the change or the fact that it's the traditional viewpoint make the status quo right either.

      The people I know in favour of WO / WB have studied the Bible and concluded that restricting ministry to men is a false teaching, a misunderstanding of the Bible. We're not motivated by the spirit of the age, but a desire to see the church reformed to be what we believe God wants it to be.

      (I'm not denying there's a liberal camp who take a different approach, but that's not where I'm coming from).

  17. Carl

    "Joyce Meyer teaches a Prosperity Gospel. She's a 'Word of Faith' preacher. She's probably not the best example of successful orthodox female leadership to offer. Rather the opposite."

    We are all sinners Carl But God has chosen to bless Joyce's minstry, warts (not really many of them) and all.

    Look at the fruit!

    I have tried to folow Jesus all my life and God has certainly blessed me materially. My main treasure, however, is the I have a way back into to God's love through the sacrifice of Jesus.