Thursday, 22 November 2012

A hierarchical, misogynistic church?

This Sunday marks the feast of Christ the King. Yet many of us will be struggling to see the Kingdom in Christ's Church this week, after the calamitous meeting of Synod to vote on the consecration of women as Bishops.

I say 'calamitous' not just because of the verdict, but because of the situation it leaves the Church in, both internally and in the public eye. Internally, we remain at loggerheads in a compromise which suits nobody. The outside world, on the other hand, will ignore three key facts:

1. the measure fell in the most diverse house, the House of Laity; 2. it fell partly not because of antipathy to women bishops, but because members felt that the legislation was messy, and 3. the two-thirds vote needed in the House of Laity was lost by only six votes, showing that the majority even of the laity were in favour.

Despite the fact that the totally male House of Bishops voted for women bishops, as did the House of Clergy, we are still being seen as a male-dominated, hierarchical and backward organisation. The figures suggest the opposite. 42 out of 44 dioceses voted in favour of the legislation, backed by the bishops, including both the outgoing and incoming Archbishops of Canterbury. So, ironically, a more hierarchical structure of church governance would have given a more democratic result. This week's decision raises serious questions about the fitness of our current synodical structures, and worse, puts our relationship with the state in jeopardy.

We will need to pray hard for unity and charity within the Church, because both are going to be much harder to maintain over the years to come.

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