July 08, 2008

Women bishops in the C of E

The Church of England's General Synod has just voted to eventually permit the ordination of women to the episcopacy, including separate majorities among the bishops, the clergy, and the laity (BBC article). This move has been a long time coming; the US Episcopal Church has been doing so for about twenty years, and its Presiding Bishop is currently female. The C of E has been ordaining female priests since the early 90s. Other Anglican churches either ordain no women at all, or only as priests, or permit full ordination of women; the variability in policy worldwide has caused considerable tension within the Anglican Communion.

Chris blogged about this, and his main worry is that the concomitant "code of practice" would essentially make the female bishops into second-tier bishops. I'm mostly responding to that here, though I may write more later.

The BBC says this in its article:

"However, it will not include safeguards demanded by traditionalists, such as allowing male "super-bishops" to cater for those opposing the change."

So whatever the code of practice involves, they won't have to deal with flying bishops. Ideally, the code will somehow (I don't know how!) involve pastoral encouragement to bring round the people who "can't" be ministered to by women.

There is to some extent a legitimate pastoral concern, one that I've seen in other contexts in the RCC, where cradle Catholics find that they can't deal with any RCC ministry, even priests and lay ministers that had nothing to do with the scandal. Their pastoral needs are not being met by the RCC, and they have to turn elsewhere. It's certainly not the fault of the person, and it might not really be the fault of the priests and ministers in their parish either, but they can't just be thrown under the bus and glibly say they have to deal with it. In the case of the WO-resistant Anglicans, you might argue that it is their problem, but I'm not totally sure it's their "fault"; if they really can't have their needs met, I'd rather see them shepherded forward rather than rejected outright.

And a lot depends on how the codes are written, too. It would be absolutely detrimental to the entire organisation if the women were dinged as not as good as the men in any way. However, if it's written with the understanding that sometimes the relationship just isn't working, and that any provisions are in the clear spirit of working around a dysfunctional relationship rather than a deficient priest or bishop, I think it's at least possible that they could be made to work. I wonder if they could write the rules gender-neutrally, i.e. that people could receive some ministerial attention from outside their parish or diocese for reasons other than WO-objection? That could be a can of worms, and potentially very divisive if mishandled, but potentially very healthy, maybe.

And as long as the children are brought up to not have sexist ideas about who can and can't be a bishop, this is a problem with a definite end in sight: slowly, but surely, the traditionists will pass away. Perhaps the code of practice could require that Sunday schools positively affirm the theology that women can be bishops? And that sacraments of initiation (adult baptism, first communion, confirmationódo Anglicans do confirmation?) be performed by priests and bishops who acknowledge the ok-ness of women priests and bishops?

"We will not fear any longer. We will not fear the international terrorists; we will thwart them. We will not fear the recognition of the manipulation of our yearning for safety; we will call that what it is: terrorism. We will not fear identifying the vulgar hypocrites in our government; we will name them. And we will not fear George W. Bush, nor will we fear because George W. Bush wants us to fear." --Keith Olbermann

Posted by blahedo at 2:48pm on 8 Jul 2008
Your link to Chris' blog returns to this article instead of wherever you intended for it to point. Posted by Kelly Martin at 8:44pm on 8 Jul 2008
Oops! I forgot to fill in the URL. Fixed now. Posted by blahedo at 9:07pm on 8 Jul 2008
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