Magazine article Anglican Journal

Women Bishops Warmly Welcomed: Fears of Open Opposition from Hardliners Misplaced

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Women Bishops Warmly Welcomed: Fears of Open Opposition from Hardliners Misplaced

Article excerpt

Canterbury

One of the great ironies of Lambeth 1998 is that the supposed stumbling block of women bishops failed to materialize.

Right up to the conference, stories appeared in newspapers talking about the "Lambeth walk" and how there would be a visible split in the church. It didn't happen.

Few, if any, bishops refused to come solely because of the presence of the 11 women and although one bishop refused to be in the official photograph, he found himself at another time alone with one of the women, waiting for a meeting to start.

Some 20 minutes later, Edmonton's Victoria Matthews and Sodor and Man's Noel Jones were having a deep discussion about reception of women.

All the women said they were warmly received and treated respectfully, even by some of their staunchest opponents.

Reflecting on Lambeth near the end of the conference, Bishop Matthews said the meeting had changed her.

"I met the suffering church here."

She spoke about meeting people who lived in difficult situations, such as a Sudanese bishop who had endured 30 years of poverty and civil war with fundamentalist Muslims.

Some of the stories just "break your heart." And she said she marvelled at the ability of people to "do extraordinary things out of nothing."

"That has changed me."

Bishop Ann Tottenham, who replaced Bishop Matthews in the Mississauga area of Toronto called Credit Valley, said Lambeth helped her to learn not to stereotype people.

She said two African bishops held different views on some of the major questions and "that helped me bring it into reality."

She said she wondered what it would be like if there was more female input into the conference, noting that "the whole resolution and report" style was the least helpful part of the conference.

Debating resolutions emphasize the differences, "forcing people to take sides they don't want to take," she said.

"It's still a very English thing."

But she said many British bishops went out of their way to welcome the women.

Her coming to Lambeth as a bishop also had an unusual family connection.

In Britain, she is properly addressed as the Rt. Rev. Lady Ann Tottenham, being the daughter of the Marquess of Ely. …

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