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Tuesday, 7 February 2006

A second nibble at the cherry - (2) 7Feb2006

So, a two and a half hour ‘take note’ debate on Women in the Episcopate. Light relief from the chair of the Guildford report, as TEA (Transferred Episcopal Arrangement) was apparently not the only option for shorthand titles today, but Women In a New Episcopate (WINE - ho, ho) offered another more inviting mnemonic altogether - but sadly it did not make it past the draft stage.

The debate had over 50 advance representations to speak, (tight chairing, and generosity from speakers meant about 35 spoke) and many new on this Synod managed to get a maiden speech in. The subjects introduced, or angles argued, varied enormously, as one might expect.

Several spoke passionately in favour of the introduction of legislation now…; some would be prepared to support women bishops as a right choice if women priests had been a right choice - but perhaps it was not, so now we could not and should not…; some requested we celebrate afresh women’s ministry, both now with women priests, but especially at the ordination/consecration of the first woman bishop.

A few made what felt like rather tired repetitive arguments rooted supposedly in tradition, as though that were a reason to fix in amber a snapshot of one time in the church’s history. That isn’t going to happen. Standing still is not an option.

But there were some other new slants. Like the comment that we sometimes promote some women beyond where they wish to be, in ministry. Not all want to be ordained priest, or are looking for preferment. Some have no real desire to be preachers and teachers, and would be happy to fit in with some of the interpretations of Pauline guidance on women teaching (or not) in the wider congregation, taking service and the diaconate seriously.

I suspect that is also true of not a few men in our churches - being promoted beyond their levels of comfort, capability, or competence.

But all that is not a reason not to think how women bishops can be integrated into our church. It has already happened a number of Anglican provinces; and will at some stage come here. I would rather our church planned and prepared for this sensibly - but I do not know that will be possible. A number of members spoke of the messiness of the arrangements - but not by way of criticism, but rather excitement and a willingness to embrace it. That, in a strange way, appeals. I like a God who walks with us in our messiness, and indeed helps lead us out of it.

Alastair GS101

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