Saturday, 10 July 2010

Women Bishops - Day 1

I have to say, I'm struggling more than I thought I would with the Women Bishops debate so far. My background is anglo-catholic, and so when numbers of traditionalist Catholics started standing up in the take note debate and asking us to vote against, I was inclined to listen carefully. The argument was not one I had expected to hear - although perhaps I should have seen it coming - and went essentially as follows: we want you to vote against taking note because the legislation is now fundamentally flawed. Not only does it not do what the trad. catholics wanted it to do, but it is actually just wrong in that it discriminates by gender. We voted by show of hands in the end, and the forest of hands in favour meant that I could abstain unnoticed, but I was left uneasy - not least by the fact that the voices in opposition were all from the traditional catholic side.

Now, this has started to flag something up for me which seems to be a long term issue that people haven't really realised yet. It is clear from the Twittering going on at Synod that there is some lack of understanding about how those against get to their positions, and as a result they miss that there are two very different positions of opposition. To put it as simply as possible, the Catholic position is that women cannot be bishops because this is a break from the traditional order of the Church. If the Pope changed his mind on this tomorrow then I am convinced that such an announcement would be greeted with delight by some, at least, of my traditionalist friends. On the other hand, the conservative evangelical position is that women cannot be bishops because they are women. This is not misogyny (although it can turn into that) but a particular understanding of what the Bible says. These two views are not, as far as I can see, compatible in any real sense. These two portions of the Church of England may currently have common cause, but that is really all they share, and there comes the problem. In trying to frame legislation, because legislation is the way we work, it has proved impossible so far to come up with the sorts of provision that would satisfy both parties at once. The result was today's series of defeated amendments.

Personally, I voted against all three of them. I felt, in conscience, that I couldn't do anything else. If we are going to have women bishops, then they have to be fully bishops - I am aware of the irony of the way I come to this conclusion, but anything else offends my sense of catholic order. Nevertheless, I was in tears after the third amendment was defeated. I knew that the point would come at some time when I had to follow my own conscience, and I knew it would feel as if I was rejecting people that I love and value greatly, but there is a difference between knowing something intellectually and feeling it emotionally. I hadn't expected it to hurt so much - and if it hurts me so when I get the result I voted for, I cannot begin to imagine the pain of those with whom I do not agree.

I can't write any more on this tonight. I am too tired, too sad, and adrift in a place with no familiar landmark to tell my way. Please pray for us all.


MikeCamel said...

Very thoughtful, very honest. You're right, too.

It's very good to know that we have thinking going on at Synod like this.

Chris said...

Thank you, Justin. You are all very much in our prayers

David Ould said...

Thanks for this, El Dodge.

It does strike me, however, that in voting with conscience (which you must, of course, do) you have voted such that others will no longer be able to, in good conscience, stay in the Church.

A bitterly sad irony. I mean no disparagement when I write that - just observing the terrible moment we have come to.