Women in Church

I want to love my neighbour (that’s in the Christian sense, not a declaration of anything the parish should worry about).  I want the CofE to welcome all-comers.  I want God’s will to be done.

Hmm, three “I want”s.  Probably not a good starting point in any debate, although the last perhaps isn’t bad.

I’ve read the Press release about Women Bishops and the Measure, I’ve read lots of responses.  There’s a really good set of links to make a summary of the story so far here from David Keen.

Also note my own belief in threefold order – Deacon, Priest, Bishop.  Anyone is ordained might be called to any of those orders. 

There’s a couple of points I’d like to make myself.
I believe I was called by God to the Priesthood.  This sense of vocation was tested for some years by the CofE, who agreed, and so I was sent for training, and ultimately Ordination.  Vocation discernment was paramount throughout – “is this what God wants?”  So the CofE agrees I was called by God to be a priest.

But the CofE contains people who do not believe it is possible for a woman to be called by God to be a priest.  And so the CofE makes provision for them, so that they don’t have to come into contact with women priests.  A cynical translation would be “there there, you don’t have to be ministered to by a woman priest because God hasn’t really called them at all, because God doesn’t call women to the Priesthood”.  A less cynical translation might be “You were here first, you are entitled to your views, we’ll do our best to ensure your conscience is not compromised.”

The CofE has got itself into a right old logical knot here.  Either it believes I was called by God, or it doesn’t.    Or was I ordained by a church with its metaphorical fingers crossed behind its back?  I understand making provision for those who joined a CofE which only had (and only envisaged) male priests.  I do not understand making provision for those who have joined a CofE which already ordains women.  It is logically daft.

Right, for those who think I am short on pastoral sensitivity (love!) here.  Yes, I agree, there isn’t much love in this debate.  I am being told that I misunderstand a fundamental part of my identity.  So oddly enough I don’t feel very loved.  I am called to love my neighbour as myself.  And if myself doesn’t feel loved…..  but we have to break open this debate somehow.  Love has to start somewhere.  So how do I show my love to those who deny God calls me?  Experience suggests I should shut up, listen a lot, and be honest when I speak.  The sad thing is that I meet them less and less often as they become more and more structurally isolated. 

Note this is not actually about gender.  It’s about who God calls to do what.  And we all know that God calls all sorts of unlikely people to do sometimes remarkable things.  Alleluia!


5 responses to “Women in Church

  1. I understand making provision for those who joined a CofE which only had (and only envisaged) male priests. I do not understand making provision for those who have joined a CofE which already ordains women.

    Yes, this is my difficulty too.

  2. I understand your frustration. The powers that be, being the powers that be, appear to have convinced themselves that they need to be seen to be Politically correct and ordain women.
    They do seem to have over looked, that if God really didn't want women in the preisthood, He wouldn't bother calling them to join…. Would he?
    I suspect it is just a fear of the “Jezebel spirit” and some idiot has convinced them it cannot effect males! rolls eyes…..

  3. I don't think the provision that exists is designed to exclude all contact with female priests, though it often has that effect. I believe it is designed with the intention that those who do not recognise that women can be priests are not in a position where they receive the sacrament from (someone they view as) an unordained layperson. This gets harder, from their point of view, once there are female bishops, because not-a-bishop cannot ordain a priest, and so even male priests might not be “properly” ordained.

    The problem with this, as you say, is that they accept their own ordination, but not the ordination or consecration of women as priests or bishops, when those ordinations and consecrations are carried out by the same church.

    I understand the Reform arguments — about female headship and leadership — much less clearly.

    For what it's worth, I find myself interacting with a number of people opposed to women in the priesthood or episcopate — on Twitter. In my case these are mostly on the Anglo-Catholic end of the spectrum. It is difficult at times not to get shouty.

  4. @Artsyhonker, I agree that the provision isn't designed to prevent all contact – but the more provision there is (both ways) for separate events for those who cannot agree, the less public space there is for dialogue. Having come from a sending church in which there was a vocal minority who “didn't do women”, I found it valuable to worship alongside them, and engage with them, if only to better understand their objections. And it meant they knew me for myself, as well as “wannabe priest”, which meant they couldn't generalise. Jaw jaw better than war war!

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