Breaking through the Stained-Glass Ceiling; the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, on Why He Will Be Saying Yes to the Consecration of Women as Bishops in Next Week's Crucial Vote

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), March 29, 2008 | Go to article overview

Breaking through the Stained-Glass Ceiling; the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, on Why He Will Be Saying Yes to the Consecration of Women as Bishops in Next Week's Crucial Vote


IT'S been more than a decade since the first women were ordained as priests in the Church in Wales. A whole generation has grown up to regard women taking church services as the norm, to see women contributing as much as men to leading parishes. Yet those women who have been ordained in the past 10 years do not share equal status with their male colleagues as they are still barred from reaching the top of their profession and perhaps fulfilling their true calling.

I believe it is now time to move on, for the Church in Wales to take the next clear step and pass legislation being put before its governing body this week to enable women to become bishops. It's a move which Anglican churches have already made in other countries, such as Canada, New Zealand, the United States, Scotland and Ireland, and I believe Wales is now willing to embrace this important change too.

To many people outside the church, the issue is perfectly straightforward and simple. In an age when it is possible for women to be heads of all kinds of organisations and indeed, where a woman is head of state, it seems absurd that women cannot hold the highest offices in the church.

For them it is an issue of justice, equality and common sense.

Those against argue that the church is giving in to the spirit of the age.

In other words, this is the agenda of the world and the church is simply aping it.

Yet surely God does reveal His will through the circumstances and events of our time since, after all, He is the world's creator.

Up until the 19th century the church, for example, supported slavery on scriptural grounds.

It no longer does so because it has come to realise that we are all made in the image of God and are equal in his sight - to enslave an individual is to diminish and degrade the divine image.

It gained this insight from 19th century social reformers.

By the same token, women today have a totally different status than they had in first century Palestine. They exercise leadership and realise their potential in ways that were not possible in the past, and if that is so, this has implications for the ordained ministry of the church.

As one person put it, "Truths which were there from the beginning, can lie dormant until the social and psychological conditions are right for them to be perceived", or as the Jesus of St John's Gospel puts it, "The Spirit will lead you into all truth".

At the heart of the Christian Gospel are values to do with integrity, justice, wholeness, inclusion, "In Christ there is no bond or free, male or female, Jew or Greek" (St Paul).

How, therefore, can a church, which claims to set people free, treat all as equal, yet refuse even the possibility of considering whether women can be called to the Episcopate?

All of this is not irrelevant to the mission of the church, for when women are barred from even the possibility of being elected bishops, it makes the Gospel inaudible in our world.

As the late Robert Runcie, of Canterbury, said, "It cannot be irrelevant to evangelism that so many unbelievers think that the place we give to women is absurd."

Back will come my critics and say, "There is no problem with having women as leaders in society, we are arguing against having them as priests and bishops in the church, for both the Bible and the tradition of the church are against such an innovation."

Yet the New Testament does not encourage us to believe that nothing should be done for the first time. Gentiles were, after all, baptised without first insisting that they become Jews, and undergoing strict dietary and ritual laws.

And the New Testament has no developed theology of ordained ministry. It speaks of the high priesthood of Jesus and the "royal priesthood" of the whole church - the priesthood of all believers, who are all representatives of Christ and his church. …

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