Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A New Venture

There's a lot to do: the Church of England staffed by many clergy who do not believe in God - an official CofE report alleges this! The same church dilly-dallying over women as Bishops, and then, no doubt rushing over this edge like unthinking lemmings. Fortunately a fair chunk of Bishops have asked us to consider the implications carefully before we do this so that we know what we are doing.

What no-one wants (surely?) is a repetition of the mess after the decision to ordain women as priests when a very large minority decided to take up the offer of having little to do with women priests! Why? ... Because there was no consensus over what a priest was.

It is no use rushing into this because of political pressure over women's rights. To do justice to those rights we must get it right and understand what difference having a woman bishop instead of a man will make. Of course some will say that it makes no difference. However I have deep doubts over that. The institution of male-only bishops and priests was so ancient and long-lived that it had become a male construct. Placing women into a male construct is difficult and does cause stresses. The period of "Reception" for the idea and practice of having women priests was to examine these stresses and strains along with the advantages as they appeared in practice. The process was intended to be open-ended so that, if we found it didn't work, we could begin to find some other way of doing justice to the ministry of women in the church.

Not only is there a matter of the entry of women into what had been a male-only club, there is the matter of the psychology of ministry within the church. Without going too deep, the church as "the family of God" needs its representative mummies and daddies. So far in the Church of England we have not provided mummies in any number except in the last ten years or so. Our reaction to mother-figures is, I suspect, deeper and less conscious, less controlled, than that to father-figures. This being so would be one clear explanation for the disastrous exodus of men and children from the church over the last few years.

So let the Church of England take care! This time we must get it right, and see clearly, and agree properly over what a bishop is, and a a priest, and take account together of the differences and gifts men and women bear. Only then, surely, would it be proper to complete the process of ordaining women as priests by making some of them bishops!