Thursday 22 November 2012

Women bishops - the Church of England in the van

Like, thankfully, most members of the C of E, I am very disappointed by the failure of the General Synod to authorise women to become bishops.  However, I feel that some of the comment on it, both by participants in the debate and external reporters (suicide, disaster) are well over the top.

The Anglican Church is the third largest Christian denomination.  The largest, the Roman Catholics, have not  yet even given the slightest official consideration to women becoming priests, never mind bishops.The only sign of a movement in that direction is a fringe group, (called I believe MOW -Movement for the Ordination of Women,) which has, I believe, little support, and certainly no official encouragement.

The second largest denomination are the Orthodox. I am no expert but  Orthodoxy states firmly:

 It is not difficult, indeed, simply to state that the Orthodox Church is against women's priesthood and to enumerate as fully as possible the dogmatical, canonical, and spiritual reasons for that opposition.

What's more, when I visited one of their principal places of pilgrimage, the Holy Mountain, Mount Athos, I discovered that not only were there no women priests, women were not even allowed on the peninsula at all.  Indeed they even discourage female animals, and don't have fresh milk because that would involve having cows (females)on the sacred territory.

I'm not entirely sure, and haven't at the moment time to look it up, but I suspect there are not many lady Imams in the Muslim faith.

So by comparison, having come within a hairsbreadth of authorising the consecration of women to the episcopate the  C of E isn't doing too badly.  I suspect that within a decade we shall have caught up with most of our non-conformist brothers and sisters.  Let those commentators and politicians who've jumped on the bandwagon to upbraid us, do a bit of cheering instead.


  1. The following information, with a correction to the above, has been provided by a Roman Catholic friend:

    MOW (Movement for the Ordination of Women) referred to in your blog was the campaigning C of E organisation before you had women priests. We Catholic Women's Ordination (CWO) communicate with WATCH (Women and the Church) which is the current C of E campaigning group. It has been pushing for women bishops, looking at some of the discrimination against women in the C of E and has inclusive liturgies and prayer vigils etc. CWO and WATCH are mutually supportive and we have been in touch since that disastrous General Synod vote.
    CWO is a small group campaigning for women priests within a reformed RC Church. It would have to be reformed as currently it has a male celibate clergy in a highly centralised, hierarchical church.

    CWO does not officially support but understands Roman Catholic Women Priests (RCWP) which is a global movement, mostly in the U.S and Germany and Austria, currently training and ordaining women priests now, who are then automatically "excommunicated".These are the so-called "boat ordinations". CWO understands why some women take this route but we want to bring women priests within the official RC Church but in to a reformed, less centralised Church with less hierarchy etc. (Unfortunately RCWP seem to go for all the vestments and some seem to have separation from lay people which many of us regret..However they are brave women
    Back in 1994/5 Pope John Paul II forbade the Church from discussing women's ordination so official RC channels have been closed to us.

    We have support from some priests but it has to be private support.

    There is an interesting reform group building within the RC Church currently, of which I am a part, A Call to Action. There have been reform movements building in Ireland, Austria, Germany etc and this is the UK version. It is calling, in the 50th, anniversary year of Vatican II for some of the Vatican II reforms to be carried out like dialogue, collegiality, subsidiarity, greater ecumenical working, more lay involvement etc. I find myself part of the Leeds diocese team! Many CWO members are joining with this too.

    Some websites for you to look at
    • CWO is uk for information about us. We also produce a monthly eNews which you can get via the website.

    • is a UK website (separate from RCWP) which we direct people to as it has a lot of the academic arguments for women priests and is coordinated by a friend of CWO John (Hans) Wigngaards and his wife Jackie Clackson. They have also produced a Jubilee statement. Link from that website.

    • acallto action. is A Call to Action a mainstream reform RC group.
    We have been following the women bishops vote through the General Synod with interest and now that it has failed, a great deal of sadness. We hope a solution will be found, as 40 out of 42 dioceses voted for women bishops yet the General Synod has, with an alliance between the conservative evangelicals and anglo-catholics, been able to vote down the general will. CWO can understand some of the pain of our Anglican sisters.

  2. A friend sent this comment by Email:

    I don't know if you listen to the Sunday programme on radio. Someone
    taking up the suggestion that Parliament legislates on the sexual
    discrimination line for the C of E. It was pointed out that they could not
    just legislate in this way for C of E, they would have to include R.Cs,
    Orthodox, Jews and Moslems! I don' think for a moment Parliament will want
    to get involved in a religious tangle, however exasperated they are with
    General Synod.