Magazine article The Spectator

Women Bishops at Last

Magazine article The Spectator

Women Bishops at Last

Article excerpt

The vote on women bishops is a triumph for our diplomatic Archbishops

The result of Monday's vote on women bishops, the Archbishop of York stipulated, must be greeted in silence, as is the convention at the General Synod. This, perhaps, was a misjudgment: it would have been more natural, surely, to allow an instantaneous mass-whooping for joy and an outbreak of uninhibited Anglican hugging, rather than to force everyone to sit tight through two or three tedious extra amendments and then to make them all stand up and start singing and swaying to 'We Are Marching in the Light of God', which was what happened.

But, say those who are delighted with the outcome of the vote, the Archbishops of York and Canterbury must be praised for their work in bringing this vote to fruition. 'The Archbishop of York was an excellent chairman of the debate,' said Sally Barnes, media officer of Women and the Church -- 'except at the very end. It was disgraceful to be told to keep quiet and not rejoice. Yet again the message to women was, "You may not rejoice." One or two of us did stand up and cheer, and were scowled at.' But as soon as the session ended and they were let out on to the York University campus, she said, 'the joy just spilled out, and it carried on and on into the evening'.

I rang the Bishop of Worcester, John Inge, early on the morning after the vote. (Clergy who live in cathedral closes are up and dressed for 7.30 Matins; you can ring them before breakfast.) Bishop John said he was impressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury's work in getting people on opposing sides of the debate to talk to each other. This is not easily done: theological views, when stubbornly held, are notoriously hard to budge. Archbishop Justin Welby achieved a subtle toning-down of the extremes of violent disagreement with the help of a brilliant Northern Irish facilitator, David Porter, who is Canon Director for Reconciliation at Coventry. (Coventry has been a great centre for reconciliation ever since the end of the second world war, when the city vowed to make lifelong friends with Dresden to make amends.) Spurred to action by the vote against women bishops in 2012, which caused national outrage, Welby was determined to bring key disagree-ers to the negotiating table, with David Porter (toughened by his Northern Irish experience) as trained facilitator, steering their conversations and telling them that Christians should not behave like that and should try to trust each other. The result is that people who used to be hostile to and horrid about each other (for example, 'headship' Christians and liberals) are now a little less so.

Those who are happy with the outcome seem to agree that, with hindsight, it's good that the vote didn't go through in 2012, as this time the legislation is simpler, and nothing divisive is enshrined in law. 'It demonstrates how God can bring good things out of bad,' said Bishop John Inge. One of the Five Principles set out in the Measure states: 'The Church of England is fully and unequivocally committed to all orders of ministry being open equally to all, without reference to gender. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.