So the Church of England have published the results of the electronic voting on Women Bishops – no, I’m not linking to it. Motions and questions in the House are being tabled and asked, and there’s lots of opinions from all sides available via Twitter, Facebook, blogs and doubtless other more mysterious social media at a computer or smartphone near you. Some of them are very well thought through, some of them are a bit ranting. SNAFU, in engineering terms. (If you don’t know, google it, but not if the F-word offends.)
I agree that it is not enough to invite everyone to “calm down, dear.” This isn’t a commercial (although it is a dreadful advert for church). And yes, in my darker more selfish moments, I would invite everyone who doesn’t want woman bishops to naff off to a church which doesn’t have them, of the appropriate theological persuasion. But the appropriate response to that is to invite me to naff off to a church which does. This isn’t “my” church, any more than it is “yours”. It’s God’s. And if that hurts me, tough. It isn’t personal, and there are many more people hurting than me from all sides.
In my really dark moments, I might bang on about being a second class priest. But actually my ordained sisters and brothers are all first class priests. I am a first class priest whose ministry is inappropriate in some situations. Think about that. There are some situations where a ministry by someone “Claire shaped (including ‘remarkably fine breasts’)” is the best possible thing. There are some situations that I shouldn’t be allowed near, with or without female attributes. Sometimes “Claire” works, sometimes “AN Other” is far more appropriate.
My worry isn’t the parishioner who wrote “no women bishops, ever” on a post it note, signed it, and then came up to receive Holy Communion at my hands. That, like the voice of opposition, is a reaction to change as much as anything else. My worry isn’t the misogynists who are using this issue to hide their prejudices. If they lose this, they’ll find another way to express their dislike of women. No. My worry is those with deeply held theological beliefs which mean they cannot accept the ordination of women. Or it was. I don’t want to get personal, but there are some good men and women out there, walking closely with God, who love the Church of England just as much as I do. And, this issue aside, we have much in common. And when I see one of those good men being installed by an ordained woman, and not looking totally miserable/angry/dismayed, but smiling and gracious, I have to have hope.
Because I don’t want to get personal, but it is in the up close and personal that relationship happens. It’s in the up close and personal that we learn about each other. And the more up close and personal we get with our fellow humans, the more we learn about them and ourselves, about our shared humanity and our shared view of divinity.
No, I’m not trying to be nice. Believe me, I’m many things, but nice isn’t one of them. What I want (gosh look how long it took before I said that!) is to be part of a debate. A gracious, sensible kind debate, which acknowledges God’s calling to all Christians. If that means bringing my anger and pain and sharing that with others, then fine. But we have to move past anger sooner or later, because this is not our church, it’s God’s, meant to be a fit bride for Christ.
I have said before and I repeat, I don’t think legislation of any kind is the answer. I wouldn’t have Resolutions A,B or C and I would have bishops. But I am comfortable that in some places, I’m just not the best person to minister, and I am happy to exist in a Church which allows people to say that. But not without plenty of dialogue and up close, personal experience on which people can base their decision.